Illinois Motorized Bicycle Laws
Personal Injury - March 21, 2019
Once you have purchased a motorized bicycle, determining what comes next can be tricky. Do you need a helmet? Are you required to have a license? Read on for a quick guide from our Chicago personal injury lawyer about motorized bicycle laws in Illinois.
What Is a Motorized Bicycle?
A motorized bicycle is a bicycle with a low-power motor designed to assist the rider while pedaling. As such, motorized bicycles also have working pedals. The aim is to allow riders to travel greater distances and carry a larger amount of weight, making motorized bicycles popular for delivery carriers. However, increased speed has resulted in a series of discussions regarding what classifies as a motorized bicycle.
In 2017, Illinois lawmakers approved a law that would regulate the mechanical specifications of a motorized bicycle. In addition, the law instituted a three-class system to further differentiate motorized bicycles from each other. A slightly different set of registration and safety rules exists for each class.
What Are Illinois Motorized Bicycle Laws?
According to Illinois law, effective January 1, 2018, a motorized bike is any bike with operable pedals and a motor under 750 watts. The law further differentiates motorized bicycles into three classes.
Bikes classified as Class 1 only provide motor assistance if the rider is pedaling, and cease motor operations if the bike reaches 20 mph.
Class 2 bikes do not require the rider to pedal in order for the motor to operate, and the rider may exclusively use the motor to power the bike. However, the motor ceases operation if the bike reaches 20 mph.
Class 3 bikes only provide motor assistance if the rider is pedaling, similar to Class 1 bikes, but only cease motor operations once the bike reaches 28 mph.
All motorized bicycles must have a label with the appropriate class, motor wattage, and listed top speed. Additional safety and equipment requirements exist for Class 3 bikes. Riders must be at least 16, and the bike must have a speedometer. However, none of the classes of motorized bicycles requires the operator to hold a driver’s license. In contrast, moped riders must possess a regular Illinois driver’s license to operate a moped.
Lawmakers took special care to insist that motorized bicycles are not mopeds and set specific laws for mopeds. They have a top speed limit of 30 mph, ten mph higher than motorized bicycles. In addition, mopeds have an engine no larger than 50cc, producing no more than 2-brake horsepower. Mopeds must also have an automatic transmission.
If your motorized bicycle has an engine exceeding 50cc but below 150cc you have a motor-driven cycle and must have a class L driver’s license. Motorized bikes with engines larger than 150cc, utilizing manual transmissions, or with more horsepower, are motorcycles. To ride a motorcycle, you must have a class M motorcycle license. In addition, you must register mopeds, motor driven cycles and motorcycles with the Illinois DOT.
Where Can You Ride a Motorized Bicycle?
The new law explicitly states that motorized bicycles are subject to the same rules as traditional bicycles. Riders can ride motorized bicycles on any surface that currently allows traditional bikes, including on any highway or street authorized for bicycle use, including bike paths. In addition, the law permits riding motorized bicycles on bike paths, except where local law prohibits.
The last caveat leaves the opportunity open for individual cities to prohibit the use of motorized bicycles on areas of their choosing. The potential for confusion between city and state laws remains a sticking point for motorized bicycle enthusiasts, who prefer a single set of laws to determine where they can and cannot ride motorized bicycles.
It is important to note that currently no areas that allow the operation of motorized bicycles on sidewalks exist. Aside from bike paths, most motorized bicycles must operate on the road. Motorized bicycles and mopeds are subject to all the rules of the road, including traffic signs and speed limits.