On January 1, 2018, the new electric bicycle law took effect in the state of Illinois. After months of slow progress, Illinois finally joined other states that have a specific definition for electric bicycles. Illinois is the second most populated state, after California, to implement the three-tier classification system which could influence other states to adopt similar legislation.
Three-tier classification system
In Illinois, an electric bicycle is called “low-speed electric bicycle” with the definition of “a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts that meets the requirements of one of the following classes”:
A class 1 low-speed electric bicycle
Is equipped with a motor that is only capable of providing assistance when the rider is pedaling, which is called “pedelec or pedal-assist”. The electrical assistance stops when the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour.
A class 2 low-speed electric bicycle
Is equipped with a motor that is capable of propelling the bicycle even without the rider’s pedaling. This is called “throttle-mode”, which works like the throttle of a motorcycle. The assistance stops when the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour.
A class 3 low-speed electric bicycle
Is equipped with a motor that is capable of providing assistance when the rider is pedaling, just like a class 1. The main difference is that the assistance stops when the bicycle reaches 28 miles per hour.
Electric bicycles are allowed on roads but prohibited on sidewalks. The local authority may regulate or prohibit the use of e-bikes on certain roads under its own jurisdiction. Class 3 riders must be at least 16 years old. E-bikes are also subject to all other bicycle laws. There are no helmet requirements in Illinois, but it is highly recommended to wear protective headgear.
Do I need a license and registration to operate an e-bike?
YES. Illinois requires electric bicycle riders to carry a license when driving. E-bikes are also subject to registration.
All class 3 electric bicycles must have a speedometer that displays the accurate speed of the bike in miles per hour.
Manufacturers and distributors of electric bikes must affix a permanent label in a prominent location. The label must be printed in Arial font (at least 9-point type), and should indicate the classification number, the top assisted speed, and the motor wattage
Any person who applies any modification in the speed or motor engagement must update the affixed label.
A class 2 e-bike shall operate with full functionality so that the electric motor disengages when the brakes are applied
A class 1 and class 3 e-bike shall operate with full functionality so that the electric motor disengages when the rider is not pedaling.
Electric bicycles may be operated in authorized roadways for bicycles, including bicycle lanes.
Riders of a class 3 e-bike must be 16 years old or older, passengers of a class 3 e-bike that is designed to accommodate one may be below 16 years old.
Comparison with other states
Illinois has similar definitions for “electric bicycle” along with 44 other states. Some states still lack a specific description and often categorizes e-bikes with electric vehicles or mopeds
Illinois’s three-tiered classification system is also followed by 25 other states. New Jersey and West Virginia only have two classes in their definitions.
There are no helmet requirements in Illinois. Helmet requirements vary from state to state. Overall, 25 states have at least helmet guidelines for both riders and passengers.
There are states which have helmet requirements for certain ages. There are states which only require helmets for class 3 e-bikes, regardless of age. There are states which require both passenger and rider to wear helmets.
Other safety bike laws
Ride in the safe direction as the traffic
Ride to the most practical and safest right-hand curb or edge, unless overtaking, making a left turn, avoiding fixed or moving objects, avoiding vehicles, pedestrians, and potential hazards, or the lane is too narrow
Two bike riders can ride abreast as long as traffic is not impeded.
Riding abreast is only allowed on paths or roadways for exclusive bicycle use.
Driving on a shoulder is allowed for bicycles
Hand signals shall be given when making a turn, stopping, or decreasing speed.
Hand signals must be done before the last 100 feet approaching the turn, and while you are stopped or waiting to make a turn.
If two hands are needed in the handlebars to safely operate the bicycle, hand signals may not be given.
Devices propelled by human power, such as e-bikes, are not subject to the law which requires at least 8 feet when passing on the right.
At least one hand must be kept on the handlebar at all times. Carrying any package that will endanger the rider is prohibited.
Only the designated number of people the e-bike is designed to carry may ride it.
Driving at night time requires e-bike riders to have fully approved front and rear lights, and side reflectors.
No one is allowed to attach the e-bike while on another vehicle.
Bicyclists must not be harassed on the road. Motorists are required to pass in a safe distance, and to not drive too close or in a reckless manner near a bicyclist. Harassment violations are subject to a Class A misdemeanor or a Class 3 Felony, depending on the harm done.
Follow the rules and drive safely
Illinois follows the three-tier class system for electric bicycles. E-bikes are called “low-speed electric bicycles”. E-bikes are subject to license and registration requirements. The age requirement to operate a class 3 e-bike is 16 and above. There are not helmet requirements for e-bike riders, but it is highly recommended.
Traffic rules and vehicle codes are implemented for a reason. Road safety is very important for everyone. Electric bikes may go faster than regular bikes so you must be extra careful. Follow the law at all times and be a responsible rider. Have fun and enjoy riding!
Want to learn more about Electric Bikes? Check out some of our most recent article below!
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