The Chicago Department of Transportation is pushing the City of Chicago to implement changes that will allow for more e-bikes and e-scooters on the city’s streets and in our bike lanes. This is no doubt in large part due to the City of Chicago agreeing with Lyft for the ride share giant to take over the city’s successful Divvy bike share program.
CDOT proposed the following:
“Low-speed electric bicycle” means a bicycle, except equipped with an electric motor of less than 750 watts that meets the requirements of one of the following classes:
“Class 1 low-speed electric bicycle” means a low-speed electric bicycle that weighs less than 125 pounds and is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour.
“Class 2 low-speed electric bicycle” means a low-speed electric bicycle equipped with a motor that can be used as the sole means to propel the bicycle and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour.
“Class 3 low-speed electric bicycle” means a low-speed electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of 28 miles per hour, or is a Class 1 low-speed electric bicycle that weighs 125 pounds or more.
A “low speed electric bicycle” is not a moped or a motor-driven cycle.”
We are of the opinion that low-speed electric bicycles can be an asset to Chicago’s bicyclists. They are particularly beneficial to those riders whose ability levels and functional levels might otherwise be limited by a pedal only bicycle. These e-bikes, if properly regulated, should integrate into Chicago bicycle system and provide greater access to everyone.
At the March 2019 Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, CDOT representatives stressed that initially e-scooters will only be those that are privately owned. But this is just a Trojan Horse plan where ultimately Lyft will be allowed to flood Chicago’s streets with rentable e-scooters.
“Low-speed electric mobility device” means a device which: (i) has no operable pedals (ii) is no more than 26 inches wide: (iii) weighs less than 100 pounds: and (iv) is powered by an electric motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion at a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour on a paved level surface.”
These e-scooters will allow anyone to ride one of these devices in Chicago’s bike lanes and for kids to ride them on the city’s sidewalks. But these e-scooters are not toys. The manufacturer of most e-scooters, Xiamo, states that their e-scooters can go up to 15-miles per hour. This is five times (500%) of the average person’s walking speed.
E-Scooters Are Dangerous
E-scooters have proven dangerous. A recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article analyzed the medical records of 249 patients involved in standing electric scooter at two urban emergency rooms in Southern California between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018. Just as with bicycles, there are specific injury patterns:
- The riders’ heads were the most often injured body part with 40.2% reporting a head injury. This was consistent with only 4.4% of the riders documented as wearing a helmet.
- Fractures accounted for nearly a third of the injuries with 31.7% of riders suffering a break.
- Other injuries such as contusions, sprains and lacerations independent of a fracture or head injury accounted for 27.7% of the documented injuries.
“Chicago streets are already dangerous enough for bicyclists. We already face distracted drivers, potholes, and often inadequate infrastructure. Adding unlicensed, untrained and uninsured e-scooter riders to the City’s streets is a recipe for disaster. The City of Chicago cannot and should not put profits over people and allow for rentable e-scooters. These devices will lead to cluttered sidewalks, clogged bikelanes, and a legitimate public health threat.”
Mike Keating’s presentation was one month before the City of Chicago proposed these changes. Keating Law Offices works to remain on the forefront of legal issues related to bicycle and pedestrian safety. The firm will continue to monitor these changes and advocate for safe streets for bicyclists and pedestrians over Lyft’s business interests.