Monday, March 25, 2019

E-bikes and E-Scooters Are Coming: CDOT Pushes for Electric Powered Transit

March 2019 Chicago Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting
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. 

At the March 2019 Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, CDOT officials and Lyft representatives discussed how Lyft will incorporate e-bikes into the Divvy fleet. Lyft has also played a role in pushing e-scooters onto Chicago's streets. Theses proposed CDOT changes will also allow for privately owned e-bikes and e-scooters to take the streets - and to Chicago's bike lanes. 

Lyft To Provide Divvy E-Bikes

The changes to the City of Chicago ordinance regarding "low speed electric bicycles" creates different classes of e-bikes. There will be three different classes based on whether the rider assists by pedaling and the overall speed of the bicycle. 

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. 


E-scooters are an entirely different device and an entirely different story. Keating Law Offices opposes CDOT's efforts to push e-scooters as an alternative to the already existing and successful bike share system. The CDOT proposal lays the groundwork for the entry of electric scooters, commonly called "e-scooters," into Chicago bike lanes. 

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. 

This is the text of the proposal: 
"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. 
Keating Law Offices Opposes E-Scooters in Bike Lanes and on Sidewalks

Keating Law Offices attorney Mike Keating was invited by the American Association for Justice to speak to trial lawyers from throughout the country at the 2019 AAJ Winter Convention in Miami. Mike's lecture was a part of Continuing Legal Education to update and inform other trial lawyers about emerging risks to our clients. Mike's subject was Bike Share and the emerging threats posed by E-Scooters. The speech was entitled "Looking Beyond Automobiles: Bicycles and Electric Scooters." 

Attorney Mike Keating, who was a vocal opponent of this proposal at the March 2019 MBAC meeting, states:
"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.