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Can anyone help me with this question? Are motorized bikes (with a gas engine) or E-Bikes allowed on the Lakefront path? There seems to be some ambiguity regarding this issue.


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Dunno if they are officially allowed, but I have seen one or two. Kinda hard to miss the gas-powered bikes, as they tend to be noisy and smelly.

According to a blog post by Brendan Kevenides of Freeman Kevenides in 2010:

Certain types of motorized bikes are governed by the same rules that apply to regular, old-fashioned pedal bikes, and are permitted on Chicago's Lakefront path.  "Low-speed electric bicycles" and "low-speed gas bicycles" are permitted on the path.  Mopeds and motorcycles are not.  To be considered a "low-speed" bike, the cycle must (a) have fully operable pedals, (b) an electric or gas powered motor of less than 1 horse power, and (c) have a maximum speed of less than 20 mph.

I'm guessing (c) would disqualify most such conveyances.
Yes, there still is ambiguity and also a hopeless lack of enforcement.
I wish we would stop acting like E bikes and gas powered bikes are equivalent. The gas powered ones are way more of a nuisance.

In the speed dimension, I suspect they are similar. That is, most of them can probably exceed 20mph with little problem (heck, I used to be able to pedal that fast), which will present problems in congested areas. Granted, the gas guzzlers are noisier and more polluting, but I don't think that's the primary problem.

I don't agree that most E bikes can exceed 20mph. In my experience most are capped at 20mph or less. The ones that go over 20mph are often cost prohibitive. The cheaper E bikes are going to be the most common ones people are actually buying, and the cheaper ones are much less likely to exceed 20mph. The gas powered bikes I see are often custom jobs, not something people are buying from manufacturers, and thus are cheaper and more likely to disregard speed limitations in their design.

I realize this is anecdotal. But I think if you look at E bikes for sale from bike shops, it will bear out what I'm saying. If you try to find the gas powered ones, you will see they're not commonly sold in stores so much as sold out of people's basements and garages where they are slapped together.

I have been passed before on Clark (out where it opens up north of Peterson). The guy was just coasting along. In my estimation, he was going more than 20. (I was probably close to that.) And there's this:

It indicates that most stop providing assist at 20mph, but that some assist up to 28mph.

In reality, the main problem in my mind is whether or not the rider of an auxiliary-powered bike (gas or electric) has the good sense to moderate their speed according to conditions and can handle their bike at top speeds. Many people who will ride assisted bikes may never have ridden a normal leg-powered bike at those kinds of speeds, so may not be as skilled as a rider who had to work to increase her top speed from 12mph to 20mph using just her legs. That generally happens over a fairly long period of time, time during which the rider is getting more skilled at piloting a bike at higher and higher speeds. When she's strong enough to hit 20, her bike handling skills are likely up to the task. Someone who tops out at 12mph today and hops on an e-bike may well not have the skills necessary to pilot the bike at 20, certainly not in the congestion of LFT on a nice sunny weekend afternoon.

Ditto.  Last year I encountered a powered bike weaving through traffic on a busy stretch of the LFT traveling much faster than traffic flow.

Agreed. The gas engine power-assisted bicycle should not be referred to as an E-bike. In yesterday's Streetsblog link to this discussion, John Greenfield wrote that gasoline engine powered bikes are not permitted on the LFT.

Gas bikes I've seen on the trail are home-built chop jobs that are lucky to crack 10 mph. Electric bikes are moving much faster than any other traffic and would cause a lot more damage in a crash. Plus they're more numerous.

I know the gear-mashing e-bikes go well over 20 on the lake front. Because when I'm going 20 I get passed pretty quickly.

Did you look at this thread? Gas powered bikes are fast also.


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