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Illinois Provides Clarification Regarding the Operation of Electric Bikes But the Law Remains Unclear Regarding the Operation of Gas Bikes

It goes without saying that in Illinois you must have a valid driver’s license to drive a vehicle. As such, if your license has been suspended or revoked, you cannot operate a motor vehicle. While you cannot drive a car without a license, you can drive a low-speed electric bicycle, as it is excluded from the definition of “motor vehicle” under the Illinois Vehicle Code. Due to an increase in popularity in low-speed bicycles and the lack of statutory regulations regarding their operation, the Illinois General Assembly recently passed laws clarifying the obligations imposed on owners of low-speed bicycles.

Electric and gas low-speed bicycles are perceived differently under the eyes of the law. To be defined as a low-speed electric bicycle, the bicycle must have fully functional pedals and an electric motor that is less than 750 watts. Low speed electric bicycles are classified into three groups: Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.

The motor in a Class 1 bicycle only provides the rider with assistance if the rider is pedaling and stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph. If the rider is not pedaling or the bicycle reaches 20 mph, the motor is deactivated.

The motor in a Class 2 bicycle can propel the bicycle even if the rider is not pedaling, but like the Class 1 bicycle, stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph. When the brakes are applied the motor must stop providing assistance as well.

The motor in a Class 3 bicycle is the same as in the Class 1 bicycle, in that the rider must pedal for the motor to provide assistance; however, the Class 3 motor will provide assistance until the bicycle reaches 28 mph. If the rider is not pedaling or the bicycle reaches 28 mph, the motor is deactivated. A Class 3 bicycle must have a speedometer and can only be operated by a person who is at least 16-years-old.

All three classes of low-speed electric bicycles may be legally operated on Illinois roads in the same manner as a non-electric bicycle, but may be prohibited on bicycle paths depending on the jurisdiction. They cannot be operated on sidewalks.

While recent legislation provided clarity regarding who can operate a low-speed electric bicycle and where they may be operated, the rules regarding the operation of a low-speed gas bicycle are still unclear. The law defining what constitutes a low-speed gas bicycle is very specific. It is defined as a 2 or 3 wheeled device with fully functional pedals and a gasoline motor of less than one horsepower, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface when ridden by a person who weighs 170 lbs., is less than 20 miles per hour.

Recently, a suspect was arrested for riding a motorized bicycle down a public road at a speed of 26 miles per hour, while his license was revoked due to a DUI conviction. The bicycle was described as having a gasoline “weed-eater motor.” It was not registered in Illinois and the arresting officer did not see the suspect pedaling. The suspect’s attorney argued the statute regarding low-speed gas bicycles was unconstitutionally vague. The trial court agreed. On a direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme court, however, the court found that while it was difficult to understand the statute, it was not impossible, and therefore found the statute was not unconstitutionally vague. As such, it remains unclear under what circumstances a low-speed gas bicycle is legal.

If you are charged with illegally a operating a low-speed bicycle following a suspension or revocation of your license due to DUI, you should confer with an experienced Illinois DUI attorney who can help you navigate the nuances of Illinois law regarding low-speed bicycles. Harvatin Law Offices, PC aggressively defends individuals charged with DUI throughout Illinois. Contact our office at 217.525.0520, to schedule a consultation.

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