Illinois Moped Laws

Mopeds and scooters are very popular in dense and congested urban areas like Chicago. Their light weight makes them easy to ride. That same quality greatly reduces fuel consumption, so scooters and mopeds are inexpensive to own. Their small size makes them easy to park, and their small engines make almost no noise. Since they are not quite bicycles and not quite motorcycles, there are some unique laws which only apply to mopeds and other such powered vehicles.

Complying with all these rules limits the risk of a scooter accident. And, if the accident is not your fault, full compliance increases the likelihood of full compensation.

Silver moped parked on road

Moped and Scooter Licensing Laws in Illinois

Most moped riders and scooter riders (“motor-driven cycles” in the Vehicle Code) must have a Class L or M license. 

To obtain this kind of license, many riders first obtain a motorcycle rider learners’ permit. These riders must be at least 16, have already completed a driver education program, and be enrolled in a motorcycle rider training course.

Motorcycle Safety Courses in Illinois

The different types of motorcycle safety courses in Illinois are:

  • Basic Course: This course teaches basic skills in a classroom format. Riders who are at least 16 and have a valid learners’ permit receive eight hours of classroom training and twelve hours of on-bike training. Riders who successfully complete this course may be able to waive the written test and receive an insurance discount.
  • Intermediate Course: This 9.5-hour class covers riding skills and strategies to avoid accidents. Graduates can usually waive the on-cycle exam, as well as the written test.
  • Basic-Plus Course: Riders who complete the basic and intermediate courses may take this additional 8.5-hour course. Riders must already have their Class L or M license, and either have their own bikes or written permission to use someone else’s bike.
  • Advanced Courses: These two courses, which are 8.5 hours each, focus on advanced skills, like braking and how to look out for other bikers.

A learners’ permit is valid for eighteen months if the rider is over 18, and twenty-four months for riders under 18. Alternatively, if the rider is over 18, it’s possible to bring a current drivers’ license or other ID to the DMV, take a written test, bike test, and vision test, and pay a fee. If the rider has completed the appropriate courses as outlined above, the applicant may waive one or more of these tests.

Equipment

Once riders get their licenses, they must be renewed as required. Usually, this renewal does not involve taking the test again. It is just paperwork. Moreover, all riders must have the following equipment:

  • Boots or other footwear that are not made of canvas or cloth
  • Jacket or long-sleeve shirt
  • Gloves with closed fingers
  • Long pants (in Illinois, it is illegal to ride wearing shorts or skirts)
  • Protective eyewear
  • Moped insurance

Moreover, there are a few informal requirements that riders in Chicago might want to be aware of, such as:

  • Never touch another rider’s bike without specific permission.
  • Always acknowledge other riders as you pass them on the road. It is a good idea to wave with your left hand, so your right hand is still on the brake. Nodding is also acceptable.
  • If you see a disabled biker, always pull over and offer aid, even if your assistance is limited to moral support.

Above all, constantly watch out for cars, because there is a good chance these motorists are not watching out for you.

Moped Laws in Chicago

As far as the law is concerned, a moped is basically a motorcycle. The operational guidelines are not exactly the same, but they are similar.

However, if the moped has a 50cc or smaller engine, which has a top speed of about 30mph, it is legally more like a bicycle. These riders do not need Illinois drivers’ licenses. However, these small scooters must have automatic transmissions. Moreover, they must comply with all other legal restrictions, as outlined below.

Operators with larger mopeds must have a Class L or M drivers’ license. These vehicles must be insured, licensed, and registered. Moped owners in the City of Chicago must have an additional registration sticker. This sticker usually costs about $50 a year. Moreover, if the owner resides outside the city limits but rides in Chicago, this additional sticker is mandatory. Many Chicagoland suburbs have similar requirements. 

As for the rules of the road, it’s illegal to operate or park any size moped on the sidewalk. It is also illegal to carry a passenger on any moped, unless the vehicle has a large-size seat or a “buddy seat.” 50cc and smaller scooters can only operate on neighborhood and side streets. Only scooters with at least a 150cc engine may operate on places like Lake Shore Drive. These mopeds can legally operate on freeways, but most safety experts suggest that only bigger bikes with 250cc engines do so.

Neither motorcycle nor moped operators must wear helmets. Illinois is one of only three states with no helmet law whatsoever. Iowa and New Hampshire are the other two.

Illinois Scooter Laws

Legally, a “scooter” is any two, three, or four-wheel vehicle with a 150cc or smaller engine. That description could apply to smaller mopeds, a three-wheel delivery or other vehicle, or most golf carts. Operators with Class L or M licenses may drive all such vehicles, provided they are registered and insured. 

In terms of equipment, if the scooter has a transparent windshield, the operator need not wear protective eyewear. Additionally, if the scooter has a headlight that’s visible at up to 500 feet and a tail light that’s visible from 600 feet, it is legal to operate the vehicle at night.

Lime, Bird, and other rental electric kick-scooters are in a different category. These riders need not be licensed. Generally, it is legal to ride these vehicles on the road or the sidewalk, but local laws vary. And, since Illinois does not have a helmet law, no protective headgear is required, though it is recommended.

Moped and Scooter Insurance Requirements

Scooters and mopeds, whether they are gas or electric, must have 25/50/20 insurance policies, regardless of the engine’s size. The $25,000 per person bodily injury ($50,000 per accident) and $25,000 property damage insurance is liability coverage only. Lienholders may require additional insurance on new vehicles.

Insurance premiums vary significantly according to things like the issuing company and the owner’s driving record. Additionally, most states, including Illinois, allow insurance companies to factor the owner’s credit score into the premium calculation. According to a 2018 WalletHub survey, a poor credit score could increase rates by up to 75 percent. 

Average annual premiums are about $280 for a scooter and $300 for a moped. These premium rates compare favorably to motorcycle insurance, which could be almost twice as high.

Powered Bicycle Laws in Illinois

Typically, these vehicles are not self-powered. Rather, most of them have very small motors, usually about 250W, which make them easier to pedal (pedelecs). A few have larger motors which make them almost, but not quite, the equivalent of a moped.

In Illinois, all pedelecs are legally bicycles, as long as their motors are smaller than 750W (one horsepower) and their pedals are fully functional. So, riders do not need to be licensed or insured. However, they must be at least 16. 

Since there are different sizes of electric bikes, and there is a big difference between a 250W and a 750W motor, state law divides these vehicles into three categories:

  • Class 1: On these small pedelecs, the motor engages only when the rider is physically pedaling. Furthermore, the motor automatically cuts off if the bike’s speed exceeds 20mph.
  • Class 2: A larger motor can independently power the vehicle at speeds of up to 20mph whether the rider pedals or not.
  • Class 3: The largest pedelecs are basically a combination of the other two. Ther motors do not independently power the bike, but these vehicles usually have a top speed of about 28mph.

The classification means basically nothing in terms of state law. But local municipalities may have different rules about where these vehicles may operate (i.e. street or sidewalk).

For more information about vehicle laws and regulations, contact Horwitz Horwitz & Associates.