Since writing my rant about buying a scooter, I’ve received dozens of emails asking about the parking laws in Chicago and elsewhere. I didn’t really know where to start until 2SB reader Dan Applebaum sent me several ordinances he found when researching the issue. So first of all, many thanks to Dan for taking the time to look all this up and share it with us.
Second of all, a disclaimer: This information is absoultely not guaranteed complete or accurate. It is provided as a general reference only. 2strokebuzz and its contributors are not an attorneys, judges, nor law enforcement officials, nor are we responsible for the quality of this legal information or the quality of our editorial comments. Please respect the law to the best of your understanding, park responsibly, and face the consequences of your actions like an adult. This information is specific only to Chicago and Illinois and for the sake of clarity, I’d prefer comments related only to parking in the City of Chicago.
Finally, before we look at the laws, please understand that it’s not impossible to park downtown, people do it every day. Like I said in the “buying a scooter” story, I have no intention of talking you out of it, but the “park anywhere” spiel some dealers may give you may contradict information police might use to cite you. I have several friends who are scooter salesmen, and one who is a policeman, and I don’t believe anyone is “out to get you” but the only thing that’s clear about the motorcycle/scooter parking situation in chicago is that nothing is clear. This page is not a list of excuses to get out of a well-deserved parking ticket, or reasons not to buy a scooter, my goal is just to collect all relevant information, both legal and anecdotal, in one place. I’m absoultely sure there’s plenty missing here. If you have access to any more relevant or up-to-date information, please send it and I’ll gladly add it to this page.
Let’s get started with the actual text of a few laws. Please note that some are edited for clarity with irrelevant passages deleted.
text in a white box is the written law.
text like this is my interpretation and comments.
(625 ILCS 5/) Illinois Vehicle Code.
These are the laws defining vehicles in the state of Illinois:
(625 ILCS 5/1-145.001) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 1-148) Sec. 1-145.001.
Motor driven cycle. Every motorcycle and every motor scooter with less than 150 cubic centimeter piston displacement including motorized pedalcycles. (Source: P.A. 90-89, eff. 1-1-98.)
By this definition, any motorized bike under 150cc is defined as a “motor-driven cycle” This includes most small-to-midsize scooters and all mopeds. This means a bigger scooter, of exactly 150ccs or more, no matter what the shape or size, is a “motorcycle.” The Illinois DMV requires a “L-class” endorsement for “motor-driven cycles” and an “M-class” endorsement for motorcycles.
I personally and many friends have taken the riding license test on a 150cc scooter and received an “M-class” endorsement (was so excited to get that license right from one of those EIS cards printers). Most scooters listed as 150cc are actually a bit smaller than 150ccs, but if they remove your cylinder head and caliper your piston at a driving test, you have bigger problems than what endorsement you’ll get. Thus, if you take your test on, for example, an automatic transmission Kymco Bet&Win 150, you are legally licensed to ride a Suzuki 1300cc Hayabusa sportbike. Most other countries have stepped licensing where you have to work your way up from class to class, but the motorcycle industry knows Americans aren’t that patient and has lobbied to keep it easy to buy a bike well above your riding skill. It is nice to only take one test on a smaller bike and then learn on progressively bigger bikes without having to face all that bureaucracy, but that’s not how most people do it. Then again, a large number of sportbike and cruiser riders ignore the whole “get a license” step anyway.
(625 ILCS 5/1-148.2) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 1-148.2) Sec. 1-148.2.
Motorized Pedalcycle. A motorized pedalcycle is a motor-driven cycle whose speed attainable in one mile is 30 mph or less, which is equipped with a motor that produces 2 brake horsepower or less. If an internal combustion engine is used, the displacement shall not exceed 50 cubic centimeter displacement and the power drive system shall not require the operator to shift gears. (Source: P.A. 83-820.)
This law is defining a what is commonly called a “moped” as having a smaller-than 50cc engine, an automatic transmission, and a less-than 2-HP engine unable to attain more than 30mph in one mile.
Note that the wording does not say “capable of more than 30mph,” this strangely-worded provision seems to be an acceleration limitation, not a speed limitation. Also note that it says nothing about the cycle having actual pedals. That brings us to possibly the biggest ambiguity regarding classification of 50cc scooters. Some would argue that to be called a “motorized pedalcycle” it would have pedals, while others say there’s nothing specific requiring pedals. If you interpret it as the latter, most restricted 50cc scooters would fall in this definition. Higher-performance 50cc scooters or derestricted scooters are definitely NOT motorized pedalcycles, but most law enforcement officials don’t carry the Scoot Quarterly Buyer’s Guide around, so they’re probably going to use markings on the bike to determine its displacement, or failing that, they might just guess. Current wisdom seems to indicate that in most situations, parking enforcement officials in Chicago consider an average scooter a “motorized pedalcycle” but it’s open to interpretation. Let me say once more that I think it’s a fantastic idea to get a full motorcycle license, take a motorcycle safety course, and wear appropriate safety gear even if you only plan to ride the smallest of mopeds. Any two-wheeled vehicle is inherently dangerous and you should use every safety resource at your disposal as possible no matter what the displacement of your cycle.
(625 ILCS 5/Ch. 11 Art. XIV heading) ARTICLE XIV. MISCELLANEOUS LAWS
(625 ILCS 5/11-1403.1) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1403.1) Sec. 11-1403.1. Riding on motorized pedalcycles.
(a) The operator of a motorized pedalcycle shall ride only astride the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, and shall not permit 2 persons to ride thereon at the same time, unless the motorized pedalcycle is designed to carry 2 persons; any motorized pedalcycle designed for 2 persons must be equipped with a passenger seat and footrests for use of a passenger.
Clear enough, don’t ride 2-up if the bike wasn’t designed for it. It’s not good for the bike, either. And yes, i’ve seen people get tickets for no passenger footpegs, even on a Vespa that has a floor runner that extends back to the passenger. Ridiculous but true.
(b) The provisions of Article XV shall be applicable to the operation of motorized pedalcycles, except for those provisions which by their nature can have no application to motorized pedalcycles. (Source: P.A. 85-830.)
This law allows mopeds to park under the stipulations belowOe
(625 ILCS 5/Ch. 11 Art. XV heading) ARTICLE XV. BICYCLES
(625 ILCS 5/11-1513) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1513) Sec. 11-1513. Bicycle parking.
(a) A person may park a bicycle on a sidewalk unless prohibited or restricted by an official traffic-control device.
(b) A bicycle parked on a sidewalk shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian or other traffic.
(c) A bicycle may be parked on the roadway at any angle to the curb or edge of the roadway at any location where parking is allowed.
(d) A bicycle may be parked on the roadway abreast of another bicycle or bicycles near the side of the roadway at any location where parking is allowed.
(e) A person shall not park a bicycle on a roadway in such a manner as to obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.
(f) In all other respects, bicycles parked anywhere on a highway shall conform with the provisions of this Code regulating the parking of vehicles. (Source: P.A. 82-132.)
So this is what most of you came here looking for: yes, you can park a moped on the sidewalk. In Illinois. Keep reading for Chicago’s rules.
AND, we’re still not clear on whether or not a 50cc scooter is a motorized pedalcycle. It’s also important to remember that if you’re on private property (parts of sidewalks and alleys downtown) it’s up to the property owner to set the rules. If you’re parking in a building courtyard or driveway, don’t expect to come out and try to stop the guy throwing your bike on a flatbed with this piece of paper. Finally, “impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian or other traffic.” is certainly up to the law enforcement officer’s discretion. And if you park somewhere legally and leave plenty of room, then six other mopeds park around you and block traffic, chances are you’ll all get a ticket.
CHICAGO TITLE 9 VEHICLES, TRAFFIC AND RAIL TRANSPORTATION
Chapter 9.4.010 Definitions.
“Vehicle” means every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a street or highway, except motorized wheelchairs, devices moved solely by human power, devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks and snowmobiles, as defined in the Snowmobile Registration and Safety Act of Illinois.
So a scooter, moped, go-ped, electric bicycle, motorcycle, and basically anything with an engine or motor, is by Chicago law defined as a VEHICLE, baby. (Try not to get that Ides of March song stuck in your head.) And local law trumps state law. This in theory means that specific local laws regarding cars COULD BE enforced on ANY motor vehicle. So it could be argued that motorcycles and scooters are presumably expected to follow all city laws regarding parking, that is: no sharing metered spaces, no sidewalk parking, and I believe (I can’t find it) that there’s actually a law saying it’s illegal to park on the street anywhere in the city for longer than 72 hours. This law is rarely enforced other than for abandoned vehicles and street cleaning, but it’s a good way for your neighbors to get your scooter towed if you don’t ride it every day. A scooter parked in an “iffy” parking spot for three days will attract a lot more attention than a car, just by virtue of novelty.
As I said, there are certainly more laws out there that relate to scooter operating and parking in Chicago, but these are the ones Dan sent. If you have access to the laws and find anything of interest, please send it and I’ll add it to this page.
- If you’re new to Chicago, you’ll soon learn that the city had the brilliant idea a couple decades ago to relieve all parking enforcement duties from the police and place them under the control of the Department of Revenue. The police obviously still enforce obvious violations, and sometimes go out looking for them, but when you get a ticket and think “don’t they have anything better to do?” the answer is “No!” There’s an entire city department outside the Police Department with the sole directive to issue parking tickets and collect the resulting revenue. And it brings in big money for the city.
- In practice, you could follow all laws to the letter and still get a ticket, or towed, by an overzealous parking enforcement officer. And when the city tows motorcycles and scooters, they don’t use soft tie-downs in the back of a pickup truck. I’ve heard a couple horror stories about the city showing up in a flatbed truck, plasma cutting a dozen locks, and having four guys literally throwing bikes in a pile on the truck. I used to ride by the city tow yard every day on the Metra train, and every day, I’d see a twisted pile containing a dozen or two motorcycles and scooters. The lucky bikes would maybe get leaned against a chain-link fence.
- The best way to find a safe space is to find other bikes parked in your area and rather than just adding yours to the cluster, leave a note tucked under the seat grip asking for their advice. Leave your phone number and email address. If they feel it’s safe for you to park there, they’ll let you know, if they don’t, don’t park there. Making contact with other bikers is always a good idea, they’ll watch out for you if you watch out for them. Conversely, if you see someone parked in a spot where you had problems, leave them a note warning them. I used to park in front of my building in the warehouse district until someone left me a note letting me know three bikes had been stolen in the neighborhood in the past month. I really appreciated that note, and it probably saved my bike from being stolen.
- If you do get a ticket, and you feel you were wronged, contest it. If you deserved it, shut the hell up and pay it. Lots of people park illegally every day and only get a ticket every few months, paying the damn thing is still a minimal expense compared to paying for monthly car parking. Parking enforcement, while a cash cow for the city, is still a service we should appreciate, and while it’s a drag to get a ticket once in a while, I have no sympathy for these people that manage to rack up (and not pay) ten tickets and wonder why they got booted or towed.
- There are other factors to consider when parking other than the law: will your scooter be safe? Thieves and vandals love scooters. Always try to lock the headset AND ignition, cable-lock it to something solid (or friend’s bikes) and use a disk brake lock if applicable. Look over your scooter carefully before riding if it’s been parked in public. Also, city medallions and license plates are commonly stolen by motorcyclists with illegal or untitled vehicles. use a razor blade to cut “X”es in your plate sticker to make it harder to remove. Use theft-proof bolts for your plate and medallion. Bolt your medallion through the middle and use all four bolts in your plate to make them harder to cut off the bike. It’s sad, but it happens.
This is a work in progress, but I hope you found it useful. One last time, I want to thank Dan for his research and beg you to add your knowlege to this report. Email me if you have any information. Thanks!