Although electric scooters represent a clean alternative to polluting vehicles and heavy traffic in most major cities across the world, the laws regarding their operation are still blurry, including in various states from the USA. They may not be illegal in Illinois, but we suggest you check out our recent post to find out more about the laws in this state.
Electric scooters first appeared on the market about two decades ago but they were only mass produced after the technologies got more affordable, about 6-7 years ago. They represent a clean and green alternative to polluting vehicles such as personal cars or trucks and are also quite easy to handle.
However, there are plenty of controversies regarding electric scooters, especially when it comes to the legal grounds of their operation. Since they are relatively new, it comes as no surprise that rules still need to be adjusted to properly frame the activity of electric scooters, as well as the age of the driver.
Personal safety concerns also need to be properly addressed as more and more people fancy the alternative these vehicles offer to crowded and heavy-traffic cities.
How are currently electric scooters defined by laws?
In the United States, electric scooters are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs) and, often enough, their top speed is limited to 15-20 miles per hour and cannot exceed 100 pounds. Since they aren’t defined as classic road vehicles, you are not allowed to use them on public roads.
As we previously mentioned, the laws don’t completely cover all the aspects of these new vehicles, so each state comes up with its own rules and regulations. In some places, PLEVs are allowed on sidewalks or pavements, while others don’t allow them anywhere near public roads.
In most states, electric scooters follow about the same rules as electric bikes, and that includes safety concerns and their use on the pavement or sidewalk. But, again, each state is different, so you should definitely consult the local legislation to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal.
The Illinois law
This state is considering new legislation that will regulate the use of these electric scooters by introducing a new amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code. According to it, low-speed electric scooters should weigh less than 100 pounds, run on two or three wheels, and should be stood upon while riding.
They must be powered solely by an electric motor or by human power and their maximum speed shouldn’t exceed more than 20 mph. Apart from these rules, the Illinois state is also concerned about the safety of the riders, which is why it’s specified that all operators must be at least 16 years old and hold a valid driver’s license, instruction permit or State identification card.
Other specifications of the new amendment include the fact that scooters should have lamps and reflectors for nighttime use and all these vehicles must come with functioning brakes. In addition, people are only going to be able to ride electric scooters on bike lanes and bike paths.
It is worth mentioning that more and more states, including California and Texas, adopted similar codes to clearly specify the duties and obligations of scooter riders.
Many European cities like London, Paris, Bruxelles, and Bucharest already gave into the trend of shared ride electric scooters, with plenty of US cities to tag along. In other words, companies are now placing hundreds of these vehicles around the city for people to rent and ride as they please, in exchange for a small fee.
There are plenty of advantages for the system, and they include the possibility for visitors to see as much as they can from the city. But, apart from touristic purposes, shared rides with electric scooters also seem to become a convenient alternative for those who need to run quick errands in town or those who want to get from point A to point B faster, without spending hours in traffic.
Another advantage of the service is that you’re not responsible for the scooter after you drop it off. You can take it anywhere and leave it anywhere, meaning you won’t have to find a suitable place to store it or park it as you run your errands. Once it runs out of battery, you can leave it anywhere you want and continue your journey by foot or rent another similar vehicle.
With summer just around the corner, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection made a joint announcement that applications for shared ride electric scooter companies are opened for a city pilot program.
The pilot program is supposed to start on June 15, 2019, and end on October 15, 2019. During that time, shared electric scooters will be rented and used in specific areas of the city to see the impact of these vehicles on the local population and the traffic records.
Lime and Bird, two of the most popular companies in the field, already showed interest in the project as they’re looking to expand their businesses in other American cities.
However, local authorities remain reserved about the positive impact of bringing more electric scooters in the big cities as a study conducted in Austin, Texas, at the end of 2018 showed that no less than 190 scooter riders were injured over a period of three months.
Around 30% of the riders were on an electric scooter for the first time in their lives and didn’t know how to properly handle it or avoid bumping into pedestrians.
What’s more concerning is that these shared ride PLEVs don’t come with protective gear, so it’s up to the rider to bring along a helmet and other accessories to avoid traumatic brain injuries and other accidents.
How to safely ride an electric scooter
Whether you’re in Illinois or any other state, riding an electric scooter should be a fun and danger-free experience. In order to keep yourself and the streets safe, you should always wear protective gear (helmet and additional paddings like knee pads, gloves, and elbow pads).
Each rider should follow all the traffic signals and pay attention to the traffic rules, similar to any other bike rider. You should also pay close attention whenever you’re making a turn to avoid losing command of the scooter.
It goes without saying that if you rent one of these vehicles on the street you should park it in a convenient spot for the next client to use it. This means you should never leave the scooters in the way of pedestrians, on the sidewalk or in any other place where people might trip and fall because of them.
Lastly, keep in mind that most electric scooters are designed to be used by just one person at a time, so avoid bringing your friend along, even if it seems like there is enough room for both of you on the deck.
Riding with another person is two times more dangerous as the passenger won’t have anything stable to hold onto and might easily fall off the scooter when you’re accelerating or making a sudden turn.
The rules regarding electric scooters are yet to be properly defined, not only in Illinois but all over the world. With more and more people adopting this type of ride because it’s cheap, fast, silent, and doesn’t pollute the environment, we’re most likely to be part of a revolution that ditches the use of regular, personal cars in the favor of smaller, electric vehicles that can be easily parked and work wonders on short distances.
If you find yourself in Illinois and are looking to acquire such a vehicle, make sure to be at least 16 years old and hold a valid driver’s license to ride it.