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What You Need to Know about Chicago’s Summer Dockless E-Scooter Program

(Image CC BY-SA 2.0 – Elvert Barnes)

Now that summer is here, people are spending more time outside and this summer the scooter market is coming to the City of Chicago. They go by several different names such as dockless scooters, electric scooters, or the e-scooter and you may have seen them in other cities, Bird, Lime, Spin, and Uber are some of the popular brands. This year the City of Chicago will be implementing a new e-scooter program and it’s geared towards providing an affordable, environmentally friendly, alternative means of transportation without overrunning the city with electric scooters. 

The scooters will be available for use between June 15 and October 15 between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily and they will be removed every night for safety.

How old do you have to be to ride an electric scooter in Chicago?

To rent the electric scooters, a person must be 18 years old. Individuals who are 16 or 17 years old can rent only if they have the consent of a parent or guardian.

Do I need a helmet to ride an electric scooter in Chicago?

The short answer: No. The City of Chicago does not require helmets to be worn to ride an e-scooter.

However, helmets can protect you from a serious head injury. Check out what options the electric scooter company you are using offers as many will give incentives, promos, or discounts on helmets. 

Where can I ride an electric scooter in Chicago?

To minimize potential issues with pedestrians, scooters cannot be ridden on sidewalks. The e-scooters can be ridden in bike lanes with a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour and should be ridden in the same direction as traffic. Scooters should also follow the same traffic laws such as stopping at red lights and stop signs.

The scooters will not be available in the downtown loop area or near the lake. The city created a pilot area that encompasses the west side of the city. If you go outside that zone, scooters will slow down and eventually come to a stop.

What you need to know about riding an electric scooter

First time riding an electric scooter

The most likely time someone will be injured riding an electric scooter is during a person’s first ride. If you decide to ride an electric scooter, take your first ride slow. Some apps have an easy step-by-step tutorial of showing you how to ride the scooter and where the throttle and brakes are located. Other companies only have tutorials on their websites. It may sound silly to go watch a video on how to ride a scooter, but this is new technology and could cause serious injury if you fall off or collide into something, so take the minute and make sure you understand how the scooter works. Try the scooter out slowly, away from traffic and pedestrians and get comfortable using it before you use it to get to work when you are running late.

General safety for riding an e-scooter

Every time you ride an e-scooter, check the brakes (Chicago requires both a hand brake and a foot brake), throttle, front and rear lights, and tires and make sure they are working properly. If anything seems off or not in good condition, move on to another scooter. Here are some more general safety tips for riding an e-scooter:

  • Always keep both hands on the handlebars to steel while riding, you should not be texting and riding.
  • Scooters are made to ridden on smooth surfaces, so keep your eye out for any bumps or potholes in the road that could cause you to lose balance or control. Additionally, if is raining or the ground is wet, take that into consideration when braking or taking turns.
  • Do not ride too close to any curbs or parked cars and if you are near pedestrians or cars, use the bell to alert them of your presence.
  • Scooters are made for one person at a time, so do not allow passengers on your scooter.

Scooter Malfunctions

Unfortunately, scooter malfunctions do occur. The best way to minimize your risk of malfunction is to ensure the brakes and accelerator work properly before going too quickly.

If you see a loose wire on the scooter or a broken piece, use a different scooter. Report any problem or issue you encounter to the electric scooter company. If you have questions about a particular scooter before riding, each electric scooter is required to have a 24/7 helpline so a quick call can always be an easy way to ensure your safety.

What do I do with my electric scooter when I am done riding it in Chicago?  

The City of Chicago is requiring users to send pictures of their parked bikes to the companies to ensure our sidewalks are not cluttered with scooters. Bu the general rule is, when you are finished riding your electric scooter, they can be parked wherever it is legal to lock bikes. Park them standing up and make sure they are not on the corner of a street or near a bus stop or building. They should be somewhere that pedestrians will not trip over the scooter just walking down the street. Finally, don’t leave your scooter on private property (for example, someone’s front yard, or in a grocery store isn’t a good place to leave the scooter).

Can I ride an electric scooter after I have had a few drinks in Chicago?

The best policy is don’t drink and ride, although there is currently no law banning riding a scooter after a few drinks. For your safety as well as the safety of others it is advised not to ride an electric scooter after consuming alcohol.  

What happens if I am injured while riding an electric scooter in Chicago?

If you have been injured while riding an electric or dockless scooter, call 911. Make sure to document any injuries you sustain and what caused the injury. If anyone saw the incident, get their name and contact information. If the accident was not your fault then you may consider consulting with a personal injury lawyer.

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