Due to the variety of electric scooters on the market, several states are implementing different regulations when it comes to the use of this vehicle. So, Are Electric Scooters Legal on Sidewalks? This might not be too much of a concern, considering that the rules in my area aren’t that strict when it comes to the use of electric scooters.
However, it could be a different story for you. Before you even start taking your electric scooters to the streets, let us first answer this question: are electric scooters legal on sidewalks?
The answer is, it depends, and there are a few reasons why.
Are Electric Scooters Legal on Sidewalks?
General Laws Governing Electric Scooters
As mentioned, it depends. After all, laws and regulations regarding electric scooter use vary from one state to another. However, you can find general laws with regard to the use of electric scooters in every state, mostly applying to electric and gas-powered models.
For example, you have to be at least 16 years old in order to start riding a scooter on public roads and highways. Specifically, if you plan to operate a 50cc scooter (one with a minimum speed of 30 mph), you need to own a class E operator’s license.
Electric Scooter Laws by State
To further assess whether you are allowed to ride an electric scooter on your sidewalk or not, let us break down some of the known states that implemented their own electric scooter rules. They’re as follows:
In California, you are not allowed to ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk as stated in the California Vehicle Code (CVC) §21230. However, there’s one exception as explicitly stated under CVC §21235 mentioning that you can legally ride an electric scooter on a sidewalk IF you are entering or leaving an adjacent property.
Although sidewalk riding is illegal in California, you can actually ride on bikeways, bike lanes, as well as trails. You can also ride on the streets as long as the speed limit is below 25 mph.
Denver originally allowed electric scooters on the sidewalks after a law was implemented which branded them as “toy vehicles”. However, earlier in 2019, the city council has passed an ordinance which allowed electric scooters on bike lanes and prohibited them from entering sidewalks throughout the city.
The new law mandated scooters to operate only on bike lanes or streets with a maximum speed limit of 30 mph. However, since the law is still quite new, it’s still unavoidable that people will still continue riding on the city’s sidewalks.
If you are from Texas, you will be able to enjoy a breath of fresh air considering the state’s leniency when it comes to electric scooter regulations. You can actually ride a motor-assisted scooter without any problem given that it has a 900-watt motor and below.
You can ride your scooter on bikeways like that in California, although you’re also allowed to ride on sidewalks as well as public highways with a 35mph limit. Electric scooters are also subject to the same traffic laws for bicycles. These include using arms for signaling turns and adhering to speed limits.
If you’re from New York, the city doesn’t allow electric scooters to roam around in any street, parking lot, and even sidewalks. However, this restriction might be potentially lifted in the future.
Back in 2018, the city has approved a rule which allowed electric bicycles that were pedal-assisted. This might mean that it won’t take long before electric scooters will be allowed as well. For now, all you can do is wait for the legalization to take place, which won’t be too far considering the increasing popularity of electric scooters, especially among commuters.
Electric Scooter Laws Outside of the US
Apart from the US, certain countries like the UK also allow the use of electric scooters. Unfortunately, electric scooters are not allowed to be used on all public areas including parks, roads, and pavements. Specifically, you’re only allowed to use an electric scooter within your property or on a privately owned land.
Other European countries such as Switzerland prohibit electric scooters on sidewalks but allow them on bike lanes.
In Canada, riding electric scooters is completely legal. Since they are classified as power-assisted vehicles, the laws which govern their ownership and usage are similar to traditional bikes. Additionally, there are no licensing, insurance, or plate number requirements for electric scooters in the country.
Types of Electric Scooters You Can (Or Can’t) Ride on Sidewalks
Due to the variations of electric scooters, you have to first know what type of scooter you own. This is because certain states have different rules and regulations not just regarding electric scooter use but also the type of electric scooter that’s allowed. They’re as follows:
Electric scooters which are designed for children have a maximum speed of 15 mph and are mainly for recreational purposes. This means that most states and cities prohibit their use on any public street.
However, there are certain cities that allow the use of children’s electric scooters within residential areas. Due to their limited functions and lack of standard safety features, they are only allowed in local parks and sidewalks.
Scooters that fall under this category have a step-through design. Aside from that, they have the operational safety features that you can find in gas-powered scooters and motorcycles. Before you can start riding one, you need to have a motorcycle operator’s license and have the vehicle registered first.
These are scooters that come with a speed range of 15 to 25 mph. Although they are equipped with the essential safety features which make them “street legal”, most regulations only allow them to be used on residential areas with a maximum speed limit of 35 mph. Also, licensing requirements will depend on your area, so consulting your local department first is advisable.
Electric Scooter Riding Safety Tips
Once you have determined the laws and regulations that govern electric scooter use in your area, it’s time we talk about some riding safety tips to ensure you can enjoy a smooth and safe ride. Here are some tips you can use:
1. Wear standard safety equipment, especially a helmet
Of all the safety tips, this is no doubt the most important. You have to keep in mind that accidents can happen, which is why you have to take precautionary measures to prevent yourself from suffering any lasting injuries in the worst case scenario.
That said, you have to make sure you wear standard safety gears, especially a helmet, to keep yourself protected. Elbow and knee straps are also important as they offer protection from bumps and scrapes in the event you tip over. Meanwhile, gloves will provide you with an improved grip.
2. Follow traffic rules and laws
There’s a reason why most states only allow electric scooters to be used in bike lanes. In line with that, you have to make sure that you abide by the traffic rules and laws as you ride on public roads. This would mean following traffic lights and signs, yielding to pedestrians crossing pedestrian lanes, and following speed limits.
If electric scooters are allowed in your area, it only means that they’re also classified as public vehicles which, in turn, means that they have to follow the same traffic rules. However, as mentioned earlier, you have to check the laws in your area as they vary from state to state.
3. Check if your scooter is functioning properly
Before you even take your scooter to the streets, you have to make sure it’s fully functional. You can start first by checking its tires. Check if it has enough pressure, and check if the treads are worn out or not. Replace if necessary.
If you notice something wrong with your scooter, such as failure to start or failing brakes, make sure you have them fixed first before riding. If you go on riding without resolving any issue, it can only lead to performance issues and even potential accidents.
4. Be mindful of your surroundings
You might lose your focus as you ride an electric scooter. That said, you have to make sure you maintain your focus on the road and your surroundings to prevent possible accidents. When you’re on public roads, make sure to watch the incoming traffic and look out for pedestrians.
5. Avoid tandem riding
An electric scooter is designed for solo use only, which is why you should never let anyone else accompany you, even if it’s a kid. This is because your scooter won’t be able to hold more weight. Also, it can prove to be dangerous for you and your partner.
You have to take note that even the lowest speed crash can lead to significant injuries and damage to your scooter. Lastly, most cities prohibit two riders on a single scooter.
6. Limit your speed
One of the basics of a safe scooter riding is limiting your speed, especially when you’re riding downhill. Always keep in mind that an electric scooter can quickly and easily pick up speed, especially if you’re riding downhill. Therefore, you have to make sure you use brakes and ride at a slower pace.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Electric Scooter Use
Q: Is a license required to ride electric scooters?
A: Licensing requirements vary depending on your area. In general, you don’t need a license and registration to ride an electric scooter. However, certain areas like California will require a driver’s license as well as a minimum age requirement.
Q: Should you use a helmet?
A: There are countries that don’t allow users to ride electric scooters without a helmet. However, regardless if it’s required by law or not, you still need to use a helmet for safety purposes, especially if you’re driving on public roads.
Q: Where should you ride a scooter?
A: Most countries and states prohibit riding electric scooters on sidewalks. There are a few exceptions, however, such as Texas which have more lenient laws governing electric scooter usage.
On the other hand, most areas that allow the use of electric scooters will only limit them on privately owned properties, bike lanes, and public roads with low speed limits.
Q: What’s the best electric scooter model to buy?
Be Familiar with the Laws in Your Locality
We’ve discussed the various complexities and varying regulations regarding electric scooter use in various areas around the world, mostly in the US. Now let’s take a look back at the basics:
- In California, you’re not allowed to ride your electric scooter on sidewalks. However, you can ride on bike lanes provided that you have a valid driver’s license.
- In Colorado, you are allowed to ride on the sidewalk. However, you are not allowed to ride anywhere else. Since the state considers electric scooters as a “toy vehicle”, you won’t be able to take yours to bike lanes or public roads.
- Texas is a bit more lenient with their regulations. You can actually ride your electric scooter on sidewalks, public roads, and bike lanes without any problem. However, there are certain areas within Austin where sidewalk riding is prohibited.
- In Washington DC, you can ride on any sidewalk given that it’s monitored by the National Park Service. If not, then you’re only allowed to ride on bike lanes.
Riding an electric scooter is no doubt fun. It gets a lot more enjoyable when you’re out there on the road.
However, you have to make sure you check your local laws and regulations first if you want to avoid any problems. Moreover, DON’T go riding an electric scooter if you have no safety gears on.