How to Ride an E-Scooter in Chicago Without Dying
It’s been one whole month since swarms of electric scooters began flooding Chicago’s sidewalks, introducing the city’s denizens to a transportation alternative that’s as fun as it is sustainable. The four-month pilot program invited 10 private companies to dole out a collective 2,500 dockless e-scooters in a sanctioned 50-square-mile stretch spanning the northwest, southwest and far west sides. As one might imagine, westsiders jumped at the chance to get to know these curious two-wheeled invaders, racking up a total of 60,000 trips during the course of the program’s first week.
But it hasn’t exactly been a scoot in the park. According to Streetsblog Chicago, nearby hospitals documented 21 scooter-related injuries during the pilot’s first two weeks, some serious enough to warrant surgery.
On June 20th, a person riding an e-scooter the wrong way down a one-way Wicker Park street collided with a bicyclist and then sped off, leaving him unconscious and bleeding on the street. The 32-year-old biker, Allyson Medeiros, required several surgeries and is now taking all 10 e-scooter companies to court in an effort to track down the hit-and-run perpetrator. Streetsblog later reported that a biker intentionally shoved a rider off their scooter that same week, resulting in multiple serious injuries.
Less violent offenses like hangings scooters from tree branches, leaving them overturned and defacing them with graffiti have also been an issue, and just last week the city issued hefty fines to seven of the 10 vendor companies for rules violations.
Which is all to say now is the perfect time to (re)acquaint ourselves with the ins and outs of e-scooting, reflecting on what we’ve learned over the last 30-odd days to ensure a brighter, safer and smoother (seriously, those potholes need to GO) tomorrow.
How it works
The program is fueled by 10 different companies: Bird, Bolt, grüv, JUMP (owned by UBER), Lime, Lyft, Sherpa, Spin, VeoRide and Wheels. Each vendor maintains their own app, e-scooter model, and rental rates (usually between 15 and 30 per minute). All you have to do is download the app and create an account to locate to reserve an available scooter. Most e-scooters are tagged with a QR code that you scan to unlock your ride and some apps make you watch a safety video or go over some brief rules before you kick off. While the e-scooters differ slightly in size and shape, all have two wheels, a standing platform, and a waist-high handlebar for steering, acceleration and braking. The companies are also responsible for collecting their e-scooters at 10 p.m. every night and returning them to the streets at 5 a.m. every morning.
As long as you keep within the pilot program’s boundaries — basically Irving Park Road, the Kennedy Expressway and the Stevenson Expressway — the west side is your oyster. Try to avoid busy streets without bike lanes and small side streets that are more likely to be riddled with potholes. E-scooters aren’t allowed on the 606 elevated trail, but you can cruise to your heart’s content through Douglas and Humboldt parks. Many commuters use them to bridge the gaps between bus stops or CTA stations.
The Dos and Don’ts
DO use bike lanes
Some cyclists may give you a hard time, but designated bike lanes are still the safest place to scoot by far. If you’re not sure where to find them, download a handy 2019 CDOT bike map here or follow the biking directions on your phone’s GPS. Just keep the peace, announce when you’re passing, try not to tailgate and don’t cut anyone off, and you should be fine.
DO obey all traffic laws
That means hitting the breaks at stop signs and lights, signaling before you turn, never riding the wrong way down a one-way street, stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks and generally trying to be an upstanding member of society.
DO wear a helmet
They’re not required (yet), but judging from the amount of injuries sustained so far, they probably should be. Protect that noggin.
DO walk your e-scooter on the sidewalk
You can’t ride on the sidewalk, but you’re welcome to calmly wheel your e-scooter wherever you need to go as long as your feet stay on the pavement.
DO avoid steep inclines
Most of the apps will tell you this before you ride and it’s damn good advice: these guys aren’t designed for shredding. (Though, as my fiance said when confronted with this rule, “Steep inclines? In Chicago?”)
DO park near bike racks
This is an important one. As you would with a bicycle, make sure to leave your e-scooter upright and near bike racks, street signs or retired parking meters when you’re finished with it. Ditching your wheels in the middle of the sidewalk, tipped over or in a parking space is a total jerk move.
DO snap a photo when you’re done
Some apps will keep charging you if you don’t upload a photo of your e-scooter proving that it’s properly parked and in good shape after ending your ride. And even if the app doesn’t require it, it helps them avoid more fines, so just do it.
DON’T ride on the sidewalk, like ever
This is a biggie. That lustrous, even concrete might look tempting, but the only thing more rude than riding your bike down the sidewalk is zipping past old folks with walkers and crying babies in strollers aboard a godforsaken electric scooter.
DON’T exceed 15 MPH
The e-scooters were built to max out at 15 MPH, as per city regulations. You might be able to get more speed depending on your size, where you’re riding, or how hard you kick off, but you really shouldn’t.
DON’T wear headphones, text or talk on the phone while riding
You’re in traffic, for crying out loud!
DON’T ride while intoxicated
DON’T give anyone else a lift
These e-scooters were designed to be a one-man operation, so it’s against the rules (not to mention dangerous and probably a little sweaty) to scoot with a buddy on board.
DON’T scoot down the 606 Trail
According to the officials, public parks that fall within the test zone are fair game, but the scenic 606 is off limits. Bummer.
DON’T take them on the train
E-scooters aren’t allowed on any CTA bus or train or inside CTA stations, so stick to the street. (Plus, if you’ve rented a scooter you should probably just … ride it?)
DON’T take your (young) kid for a ride
As item 16 of the city’s E-Scooters Pilot Program Terms clearly states, “Vendors shall not rent their scooters to any individual who is under the age of 18 years old as part of the pilot program. Provided, however, vendors may rent scooters to any individual who is 16 or 17 years old with the consent of the parent or guardian of such individual.” The apps work their magic to verify your age.
DON’T leave the Westside
Thanks to geo-fencing, if you try to leave the designated test zone, your e-scooter will quickly slow down and power off, leaving you stranded with a heavy, completely useless object and extra charges on your rental bill.
DON’T expect it to be easy … or cheap
The first time I attempted to conquer an e-scooter, I was truly surprised by how un-bike-like it was. Unless you’re already a seasoned scooter or skateboarder, standing up with such a high center of gravity can be a bit disarming. And thanks to the Ukranian Village’s endless network of gaping potholes and ripped up concrete, the relatively small wheels and lack of effective shocks made for a particularly bumpy ride. It took me about half my ride to get the hang of things, but I still wasn’t confident enough to venture off the leafy residential streets and onto a major thoroughfare.
Rules of the Road: California Laws for E-Scooters
Nothing says freedom like zipping along Orange County’s sunny city streets on an E-scooter. ecologically friendly than a motorcycle and so much easier to park than a car, E-scooters make a great transportation choice for people who need to get themselves from Point A to Point B inside a city.
But just because E-scooters are a popular commuting choice for students and anyone else who needs a simple transit option, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rules you have to follow.
Micromobility is all the rage in California now, but with freedom comes responsibility. If you aren’t too sure about the rules and regulations covering E-scooters in California, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out the laws you need to know about in order to use your e-scooter in California.
What’s an E-Scooter?
E-scooters are electrically powered self-propelled vehicles that seat (or stand) a single person. Since they’re self-propelled (meaning you’re providing the power by pedaling or pushing with your foot, or with a small electric motor), they do meet the legal requirements to be classified as motor vehicles (at the other end of the spectrum are bikes and scooters, which have no ability to move on their own).
Did You Know? The first scooter that didn’t rely on foot power to move was built in 1915!
What’s the Law?
California Vehicle Code, Sections 21220 through 21235 cover motorized scooters, which your e-scooter falls under. These fourteen laws are what stand between you and whether or not you participate in the California’s rules of the road safely.
Here’s a quick and easy reference for you to use:
- VEH§21220: California Legislative declaration of intent to “add this article to promote the use of alternative low-emission or no-emission transportation.
- VEH§21220.5: Sets forth the definition of motorized scooter.
- VEH§21221: Concerning operating a motorized scooter under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- VEH§21221.5: Concerning arrests for DUI and testing.
- VEH§21223: About the safety equipment required to operate a motorized scooter at night.
- VEH§21224: Concerning license plate requirements and registration
- VEH§21225: Sets forth local authority’s ability to regulate scooter traffic
- VEH§21226: Regulates the sale of second-hand motorized scooters
- VEH§21227: States that a motorized scooter must have brakes
- VEH§21228: Where and how to ride a motorized scooter, including how to make a right-hand turn and avoid debris in the lane
- VEH§21229: Where and how to ride in the bicycle lane, including how to make a left turn
- VEH§21230: States that a motorized scooter may be operated on a pathway or trail unless a local agency with jurisdiction says otherwise.
- VEH§21235: What you cannot do when you operate a motorized scooter
- VEH§22411: The stated maximum speed a motorized scooter can go.
See VEHICLE CODE – VEH DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336] ARTICLE 5. Operation of Motorized Scooters [21220 – 21235]
What does that all mean for you? Let’s look at the breakdown.
The Law and Safely Using Your E-Scooter
Just like a regular motor vehicle, there are rules governing where, how, when, and who can legally operate an e-scooter. Let’s take a look at some questions you might have and give you the answers (and the applicable section of the law so you’re in the know).
Where are E-Scooters allowed to drive?
E-scooters occupy that odd middle ground between motorcycles (smaller than cars, but still capable of self-propulsion) and bicycles (another single-occupant vehicle, but without that crucial motor thingy). Because of that, and their generally small profile, they get to share space on the road with the bikes over in the cycling lane. They are street legal but are generally supposed to use the bike lanes (either class).
E-scooters can only drive on roads that have posted speed limits of 25 mph.
Pro-Tip: Watch your speed! E-scooters are only allowed to go a maximum of 15 miles per hour. Most e-scooter motors top out at 15 mph (some stop at 14.9 mph for safety), so speed usually isn’t an issue unless you’re buying someone’s secondhand modified scooter.
California Law: VEH§21235, Section B
How old do you have to be to drive an e-scooter in California?
The good news is that you can drive an e-scooter at 18. Heck, you can even drive one at 16! (A valid learner’s permit will get you moving on your own two wheels). Since an e-scooter is more budget-friendly than even a basic car, it’s an easy choice for new drivers.
California Law: VEH§21235, Section D
Do you need a license to drive a e-scooter?
Yes! A license is a must (but if you don’t have one yet, a valid learner’s permit is also allowed). Any valid license is okay, of any class. So, if your second ride is a truck or a motorcycle, you’re still covered.
California Law: VEH§21235, Section D
Do you need insurance to ride an e-scooter?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Technically, there’s no legal requirement to have specific insurance for your e-scooter. However, you do need a license (or learner’s permit) to drive one, and one of the conditions of having a license in California is carrying basic insurance, so while you don’t need “scooter insurance,” your basic liability insurance will cover you.
Do you have to wear a helmet while operating an E-scooter?
Riding an e-scooter will require you to wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet… if you’re under 18.
Remember, you are legally allowed to drive one at 16 with a learner’s permit. Normally, any driver with a learner’s permit can’t drive without an adult in the car, but on an e-scooter, that’s not possible.
California law: VEH§21235, Section C
How fast do e-scooters go?
E-scooters have a top speed of a whopping 15 miles per hour. Some rideshare companies that rent e-scooters keep their motor power to just below that threshold. That’s the limit their motor can manage, and it’s really the safest thing, since you’re generally riding standing up and with nothing between you and the ground other than that helmet you’re wearing.
Remember, your motor might only be able to go 15 mph, but when you’re going downhill, you’ll end up going faster than that speed limit. If you get pulled over, you risk a speeding ticket.
don’t buy an electric scooter?
Where can I ride an e-scooter?
E-scooters can be ridden in Class II and Class III bike lanes on any street where the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or lower.
For normal travel, you need to keep to the posted bike lane, until you need to make a left turn. That’s when you need to stop at the nearest convenient corner, dismount, and walk your scooter across the lanes on the appropriate light.
California law: VEH§ 21228, VEH§ 21229
Ebikes vs Karens. But they’re increasingly aggressive
What Safety Equipment does my E-scooter Need?
E-scooters must have a brake that will allow riders to perform a braked wheel skid on dry, level ground. No Fred Flintstone stops here!
To operate in low-light or evening conditions, an e-scooter must be equipped with a white front light that can be seen 300 feet from the front and sides of the scooter. It must also have a red reflector on the rear that reflects headlights from up to 500 feet away, and white or yellow reflectors that are visible on the sides.
A headlamp worn by the operator and a red reflector worn on the back of the operator’s jacket can fulfil those requirements.
Can e-scooters be driven on sidewalks?
Nope! (Although you’ve probably seen people do this) The only time an e-scooter can be driven on a sidewalk is when you’re entering or exiting a parking lot.
Remember, an e-scooter is a motor vehicle. Sidewalks are off-limits to you (except in some localities where authorities know it’s too dangerous for a bike or scooter to share the road with cars).
How Do I Rent an E-scooter?
If you want to buy your E-scooter, they can run anywhere from the low hundreds to a thousand dollars. They’re readily available from most online and big box stores. With a price tag so low, it’s no wonder that they’re becoming a very popular choice with people who commute from work to school within a single city.
If you’d like to try out an e-scooter without a commitment to buy, there are always local rental places and services that will put you on the deck of a shiny new e-scooter with a minimum of fuss. Just remember to read the rules of operating, parking, and docking, and you’ll be good to go.
Pro-Tip: Always obey the posted signs in certain areas, like beaches, and certain communities, which have different rules for e-scooter access, or may not allow it at all.
App-based Lime-S lets you locate, rent and operate a snazzy new Lime-S e-scooter within local communities. All you need to do is download the app, follow the simple directions, and you’re good to go. (No credit card? No problem! Lime allows you to pay in cash at any participating CVS or 7-11 or use their text-to-unlock feature in case you don’t have a smartphone).
Lime cautions all riders to obey all traffic laws and wear a helmet (which Lime provides). Their distinctive white and green scooters will go a maximum of roughly 20 miles on a single battery.
Where to find Lime in California: You can find Lime e-scooters to rent in Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Barbara, San Jose, and San Francisco. If the Lime program isn’t in your city or on your college campus, you can vote for it to include where you live and work by clicking here.
The other big player in the e-scooter scene is micromobility expert Bird, which provides e-bike rentals along with e-scooter rentals. (Parents, take note: Bird offers kid-sized kick scooters for rental!)
Just download the app, provide the necessary details, and you’re off.
Where to find Bird in California: San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, San Jose, Bakersfield, and Sacramento. You can also request the program in your city by contacting Bird Support here.
Lyft, that rideshare standard, has expanded to the e-scooter market. Los Angeles and San Diego both have options for scooter rental. Just update your Lyft app to the latest edition and check to see where you can pick up a low-cost rental scooter that will have you moving and grooving along.
Lyft advises that you reserve an e-scooter before you need to travel and offers some handy features, like locking your scooter while you’re not traveling so that you’re charged a smaller per-minute rate. The Lyft Driver Center has free helmets if you need one (Monday – Friday 9AM-5PM), and they offer a discount code if you want to buy your own.
Where to find Lyft in California: Currently, Lyft’s e-scooter market is only available in LA and San Diego. They also operate on the UCLA campus. All locations are available on the Lyft app. Check the FAQ for places that e-scooters are not allowed.
The other rideshare giant, Uber, also has a presence in the e-scooter market. To find and rent a snazzy solo ride from Uber, just tap “ride” at the top of your app and follow the prompts. You can choose to reserve a scooter or bike, or you can unlock one you happen to see as you walk by.
The company name that’s practically synonymous with scooters is also now making e-scooters available for public rental. Their Razor Share program is easy, app-based, and practical.
While e-scooters will never be able to replace the sheer carrying capacity of your average minivan – or even a small car – they open up travel options for a lot of people. If you need a simple way to get from point A to point B, an e-scooter might be just the thing for you.
E-scooters are a low cost, low impact way to make transportation easy. They’re going to be a part of the urban landscape for the foreseeable future, and with rideshares popping up all over California, there’s no reason to not try one out.
Other E-Scooter Laws
Follow these rules to provide the safest experience for you and the pedestrians and drivers with whom you’ll share the road:
- Users must yield to pedestrians.
- The maximum speed limit for scooter riders is ten MPH.
- Users are not required to carry insurance.
- Riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in a 150 fine.
- Users may ride motorized scooters on sidewalks outside of the Central Business District, including bike lanes and roads with low-speed limits.
- Riding scooters on bike paths is legal
- Users must legally park their scooters
- Users must obey restrictions on carrying packages
Electric Scooter Safety Tips
Whether you are new to scooters or have been using them for a while, safety should always be your top priority. Here are some safety tips that all riders should follow:
- Wear a helmet: Wearing a helmet is the best way to protect yourself from serious injury if you get in an accident.
- Obey the law: Follow all traffic laws and signs when riding an e-scooter.
- Be visible: Scooters are smaller and less visible than other vehicles. To protect yourself, wear bright and reflective clothing when riding a scooter, especially at night.
- Don’t ride with passengers: E-scooters are only meant for one rider at a time.
- Inspect your scooter: Before each ride, inspect your scooter to ensure that it is in good working condition.
Follow these safety tips, and you will be less likely to be involved in an accident while riding an e-scooter. If you find yourself in an accident, contact an experienced scooter accident lawyer.
What If I’m in an Accident?
If you’ve been involved in an e-scooter accident, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Even if you don’t think you’ve been seriously injured, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor. Once you have received medical treatment, you should contact an experienced scooter accident lawyer.
The Washington, D.C. e-scooter lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata Siegel, P.C. have a proven track record of success in helping clients obtain the maximum compensation possible for injuries they have suffered due to the negligence of others. Our firm has consistently demonstrated we have the expertise needed to help our clients see that justice is served. We have the resources needed to conduct thorough investigations of all the circumstances contributing to a bicycle accident, gathering the evidence needed to establish negligence and other types of liability.
Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata Siegel, P.C. has obtained more than 500 million in verdicts and settlements, and our attorneys have more than a century of combined legal experience. Two of our partners are certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our firm has also earned the highest AV® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell®, one of the most respected attorney-ranking service organizations in the United States. Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata Siegel, P.C. attorneys work passionately on behalf of our clients to help them secure fair compensation – there is no type of case that is too complex for us to litigate.
Who is Liable for Scooter Accidents?
As with any other type of vehicle, there is always the potential for accidents when riding electric scooters. If you are involved in an accident, it is important to know who is liable. In most cases, the rider will be held responsible for any damages or injuries that they cause.
However, there are some exceptions. For example, the manufacturer may be held liable if the accident was caused by a defective scooter. Or if the accident involved a car, the driver of the vehicle may be held liable.
Massachusetts E-Scooter Regulations
Massachusetts doesn’t yet have any statutes regarding e-scooters specifically. Instead, it has a law regulating all forms of motorized scooters. Currently, this law also applies to e-scooters.
Important takeaways from the statute include the following:
A person must possess a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit to operate an e-scooter
No one may operate an e-scooter in excess of 20 miles per hour
Someone operating a motorized scooter on a public roadway in Massachusetts has an assumed right to use a public road, with the exception of limited access or express state highways with posted signs prohibiting scooters, bicycles, and/or other such vehicles
Anyone operating an e-scooter must abide by all relevant traffic laws and regulations
Motorized scooter and e-scooter riders must keep to the right, including when they are passing a motor vehicle currently moving in the road’s travel lane
An e-scooter must have functioning turn signals and stop signals so that an operator can keep both hands on the handlebars
No one may operate an e-scooter after sunset or before sunrise
Anyone riding an e-scooter must wear protective headgear
No one operating an e-scooter may do so with a passenger
A person must possess a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit to operate an e-scooter
Essential Information About E-Scooter Regulations in Boston
Along with the general Massachusetts law, recently, Boston regulated e-scooters under a pilot program, which began in April 2021, with an initial ending in November 2021. The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) initiated the pilot program to evaluate the benefits and challenges of e-scooters in the city.
Under the pilot program, e-scooters were only allowed on the streets, bike lanes, and shared-use paths. To guard against pedestrian accidents, they were prohibited on sidewalks.
The pilot program also required operators to park their scooters upright and to park them in a manner that ensured they didn’t block pedestrian access, building entrances, or emergency vehicles. Additionally, e-scooter companies operating in Boston were required to have 24-hour hotlines so that accidents and similar incidents could be reported.
The pilot program was met with mixed reactions from residents and city officials. Supporters of e-scooters argued they provide a convenient and affordable transportation option. Opponents expressed concern about safety and the potential for cluttered sidewalks.
E-Scooter Safety in Boston
Understandably, one of the primary concerns with e-scooters is safety of both riders and those with whom they share the road. Injuries from e-scooter accidents can range from minor scrapes to severe head injuries.
Unfortunately, Boston saw its fair share of e-scooter accidents after the pilot program began. According to a report by the Boston Herald, there were 39 e-scooter accidents reported in Boston in the first three months of the pilot program. Many of those accidents resulted in serious injuries.
The BTD has implemented a number of safety measures as part of the pilot program to address concerns. These include requiring e-scooter companies to provide safety education to riders, requiring helmets for all riders, and limiting the maximum speed of e-scooters to 15 miles per hour. Note, this is lower than the speed limit established under the Commonwealth’s statute.
Injured in an E-Scooter Accident? Help May Be Available
Once more, because e-scooters represent a fairly new form of transportation, e-scooter regulations may change as local governments have more time to assess what types of laws and policies maximize safety without placing unfair restrictions on e-scooter usage.
Just be aware, even if you’re a responsible e-scooter operator who makes a point of obeying all current Boston e-scooter laws, you could one day be harmed in an accident resulting from the negligence of others. Additionally, if you’re a pedestrian or motorist sharing the road with an irresponsible e-scooter operator, you could be involved in an accident that leaves you with major injuries.
You may be eligible for financial compensation in either of these circumstances. For more information, review your case with a Boston e-scooter accident attorney.
At Swartz Swartz, P.C., we’ll evaluate your case, explain whether you have grounds to file a claim or lawsuit, and provide aggressive representation if you decide to hire us. For more information about what we can do for you, contact us online or call us at (617) 742-1900.