The Chainlink

A sharable ‘sit down’ electric scooter company is launching in Texas

Already home to thousands of electric scooters, many of them crowding downtown sidewalks, the Central Texas city will be the first to experience a new generation of shareable electric scooters from an Oxnard, Calif.-based company called Ojo Electric (pronounced oh-Joe). Unlike well-known scooter companies such as Bird and Lime, Ojo’s models are bulkier and include a seat.

Referred to as a “light electric vehicle” (LEV), the scooters can travel 50 miles on a single charge and have a top speed of 20 mph, in compliance with city regulations, the company said in a news release. The company says their vehicles are designed for bike lanes and streets.

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The phrase "designed for use in bike lanes" is likely in reference to Federal and State laws/definitions of what an E-bike is. I'm not all that familiar with Texas laws, but my understanding is that e-bikes and scooters are allowed to use bike paths and bike lanes there. 

On a federal level, HB 727 defines low-speed electric bicycles as "a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” A low-speed electric bicycle (as defined in section 38(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act) shall not be considered a motor vehicle as defined by section 30102(6) of title 49, United States Code.

Illinois law defines 3 classes of "e-bikes":

Class 1 is a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and only up to 20mph. 

Class 2 is a motor used exclusively for power (no pedaling) and limited to 20mph.

Class 3 is a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and only up to 28mph.

Illinois state law stipulates that they are allowed to operate on bike paths, bike lanes, etc UNLESS a local municipality has set rules regulating them. They are not allowed to be ridden on sidewalks. “A person may operate a low-speed electric bicycle upon any highway, street, or roadway authorized for use by bicycles, including, but not limited to, bicycle lanes.”

The Chicago Municipal Ordinance defines a bicycle as a device propelled by human power only. Anything with a motor is defined as a “vehicle” under the Ordinance. So, technically even pedal assist e-bikes (class 1) are illegal to use in Chicago bike lanes and on the lakefront trail. Also, Chicago has not yet permitted any commercial e-bike/scooter sharing companies to operate in the city, but companies like Bird and Lime have done demos and testing here. I'm sure they're working on ways to get into the Chicago market, and of course there are already lots of people riding privately owned e-bikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards, etc in Chicago.



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