Are Electric Scooters Street Legal Why Is That Important to Know?
Electric scooters are the newest transportation trend that might never leave! They provide a practical, ecological, and economical means of transportation for commuters and pleasure seekers.
However, the electric micro-mobility phenomenon also spurred a flood of complaints from pedestrians and metropolitan. So, after law enforcement evaluated the social implications, are electric scooters street legal?
Electric scooters are street legal, except in Pennsylvania and Delaware. In addition, electric scooters aren’t allowed on highways and high-speed roads (limit over 35 mph). Each state has different laws regarding sidewalks, minimum age, max speed, helmets and registration, license, and insurance.
While electric scooters are taking over the United States, it’s imperative to know (and follow) the strict laws of your state before hopping on and heading to the streets.
So, here’s a guide that will shed some light on whether electric scooters are legal and the federal legislation attached to them.
Are Electric Scooters Street Legal?
Electric scooters are street-legal in most states.
Only two states ban electric scooters entirely on the streets: Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Electric scooters are street legal
Although legal in most US states, the laws regarding where and how you’re allowed to ride electric scooters differ between states.
Electric scooters have caused explosive growth in micro-mobility, providing an array of transportation benefits. They are convenient, environmentally friendly (low-carbon), cheap, and efficient.
However, with the array of benefits comes counteractive effects – traffic obstruction, sidewalk congestion, potential accidents, and health concerns. The drawbacks have brought micro-mobility to the forefront of United States lawmakers’ attention.
Today, several laws and restrictions exist around electric scooters which aim to protect riders and the community. Some states have stricter laws than others.
Current Electric Scooter Laws
Electric scooters aren’t allowed on highways and high-speed streets (streets with a speed limit over 35 mph).
However, some states limit electric scooters to even lower speed roads (see below).
Current Electric Scooter Laws
Riders need to follow general driving and traffic rules – driving on the right side of the road, yielding to pedestrians, and observing traffic signals.
Electric Scooters Are Now Legal in New York. But Are They Safe?
Weather: Gusty all day, with early rain followed by clearing skies. High around 60 is in the morning, but it’ll drop off to the mid-40s by evening.
I asked the mayor of London to legalise Electric Scooters
Alternate-side parking: In effect until Thursday (Thanksgiving Day).
Pedestrians might begin to see a surge in two-wheeled riders swerving down the streets of New York City.
Starting today, electric scooters are now officially legal as New York finally joins other cities across the nation in embracing the transit trend. Fans of the scooters say they are a cheap way to travel. But other New Yorkers view them as a nuisance or worry about the potential danger they pose.
Here’s what you need to know about the end of the ban:
The new law, which was passed in the summer and went into effect today, means riders across New York City can use their own electric scooters and throttle-controlled electric bicycles, which do not require pedaling. So-called pedal-assist electric bicycles and electric vehicles classified as mopeds, like those rented through Revel, were already permitted.
There are a few rules: Riders of electric scooters and throttle-controlled electric bicycles must be over 16. Helmets are required on scooters for those under 18, while on certain types of throttle-controlled bicycles everyone must wear a helmet.
After the pandemic began, some lawmakers in New York said there was an increased urgency to act on ending the ban to ease anxieties for those using the electric two-wheeled vehicles to travel to work.
“It couldn’t come at a better time during this Covid era,” Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who sponsored the measure, said in a recent interview. “The world is recognizing that we have a new, alternative mode of transportation. For essential workers especially, they’re going to feel more comfortable now.”
Electric scooters have taken off in dozens of cities, including San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington, over the past three years. In New Jersey, the devices became legal last year and flooded the streets of Hoboken — quickly drawing criticism about the recklessness of some riders.
In 2019, the New York Police Department issued more than 1,100 summonses related to the use of electric bicycles and scooters. But some groups, including the largely immigrant force of delivery workers, still used them, and earlier this year Mayor Bill de Blasio directed the police to suspend enforcement as demand for deliveries surged during the pandemic.
Lawmakers in New York were long reluctant to formally end the ban, with some worrying that the vehicles would be too dangerous in a city that before the pandemic was incredibly congested. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed a bill last December that would have legalized them, because certain safety measures were not required.
A study of scooter accidents in Austin, Texas, last year found that nearly half of the 190 riders injured there had suffered head injuries. At two hospitals in Southern California, another study found, the vehicles left 249 people in emergency rooms over a one-year period.
Still, the study in Austin found that many of the injuries could have been prevented if the riders had worn helmets and had taken more precautions. The report also called for additional training, since a majority of the wounded riders were relatively new to using the devices.
The next steps
A pilot program for shared electric scooters is planned to start by May. The program, which is to last no more than two years, will exclude Manhattan and prioritize neighborhoods without myriad transit options, though details are still in the works.
Still, several app-based rental companies, including Bird, Lime and Spin — some of which spent hundreds of thousands on lobbying for the devices — are already hoping to form roots in one of the few untapped large markets.
“This is something that has become an essential service in so many communities, and we hope to see the same in New York,” said Maurice Henderson, a senior director of government partnerships at Bird.
From The Times
The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.
Hospitals across New York City are stockpiling protective gear and other supplies as staff members brace for a second wave. [The City]
The UK’s electric scooter law is failing society. and this is why
A man was under the influence of alcohol and driving over 95 m.p.h when he crashed into the car of a hospital worker and killed him, according to prosecutors. [Daily News]
Columbia University banned dozens of students from campus for traveling to Turks and Caicos Islands in violation of the school’s safety policies. [CNN]
And finally: Safe holiday food shopping
So you’ve canceled your Thanksgiving travel plans and created a scaled-back, family-only holiday menu. Now you just need to tackle the food shopping.
The crush of grocery store shoppers in the days leading up to Thanksgiving can be maddening in the best of times, but it’s especially stressful this year as New York City is in the grips of a second wave. The good news is that there’s no evidence that grocery shopping has led to large outbreaks or a significant amount of transmission, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech.
Dr. Marr, other public health experts and store officials shared some similar advice about the safest way to shop amid a new wave of infections.
The bottom line: Wear a well-fitting mask the entire time, avoid close contact with other shoppers and keep the trip short. Many experts also said that avoiding crowds lowers your risk. Grocery stores are often least crowded early on Monday mornings. During a typical Thanksgiving week, Wednesday is the busiest shopping day.
Shopping carts are germy during the best of times, but it’s not essential to clean the cart if you’re careful about not touching your face and washing your hands. Gloves are also not recommended or necessary if you wash your hands after shopping.
And as for whether to clean off groceries: “If it makes you feel better, there’s nothing wrong with doing a quick wipe-down with a soapy rag,” said Dr. Asaf Bitton, the executive director of the Boston-based Ariadne Labs, a joint center of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The key thing that is necessary is that you wash your hands, really, really well.”
eScooter Laws and Regulations In The USA
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Don’t worry if you are confused about the laws surrounded electric scooters – it seems much of North America is too, including lawmakers themselves. Even the naming is confusing – just to be clear when this article refers to electric scooters we mean what are also known as kickscooters and not the small step-thru motorbike type objects that can also be referred to as scooters.
Electric scooters have taken the US by storm, having gone from rarity to reality over the last few years, especially public share rentals run by the likes of Bird, Lime and Spin. But these are rentals specifically authorized, usually by particular city authorities, that only authorize the deployment and use of that particular company’s electric scooters.
Rules and regs around use of your own electric scooter need local research to make sure you comply with the law
But what about if you fancy the convenience of owning and using your own electric scooter where you live or work? Unfortunately, the state of electric scooter law is only just beginning to emerge in the United States and varies from state to state and even city to city. But before we take a look at different regulations on electric scooters across the US and Canada and look at the most commonly asked questions about them lets get an overview of federal legislation.
Federal Consumer Law – Safety Standards
Actually there isn’t any Federal Law specifically on electric scooters – The Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 was amended by Congress in 2001 so there is now a national definition of e-bikes in the US as they are classed as ‘a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph (i.e., a low-speed electric bicycle).’
The above doesn’t tell you where the e-bike can be used, it only gives a legal definition of it. Since then People for Bikes has done brilliant work lobbying for the three-class law now adopted by 28 states across the US which does tell e-bike riders where they can ride along and states have also legislated on a host of other issues for e-bikes like whether helmet use and insurance are also mandatory – clearly many of the legal issues relating to e-bike use also relate to electric scooters. Electric scooter law hasn’t got to this stage as electric scooters are not included in the Consumer Product Act – in other words there are no nationally prescribed legal safety standards. However there is a voluntary codes (in addition to some state and local laws) – the most prominent voluntary safety standard for electric scooters is devised by US company UL. This standard tests and evaluates electrical and fire safety aspects of e-scooters and similar devices such as hoverboards but doesn’t really address mechanical or operational safety.
The American Society for Testing and Materials announced that its Consumer Products Subcommittee on Powered Scooters and Skateboards (F15.58) would bring stakeholders together to discuss and develop a proposed standard on electric-powered scooters that would establish performance requirements and corresponding test methods to minimize common potential hazards associated with electric scooters.
(Thanks to this Crowell Moring article at Lexology which was used to research much of the above section.)
Despite this lack of federal guidance on manufacturing and performance standards, some US states clearly have made an effort to bring their laws up to date with the event of electric scooters on the ground. This NCSL article tells us that as of January 2020, 21 states have enacted laws defining e-scooters and distinguishing them from mopeds and other vehicles requiring registration and insurance.
States With The Clearest eScooter Legislation
It’s fair to say that some states have been quicker than others to pick up on the electric scooter trend and to legislate for it so that people know how and where they can use e-scooters. Let’s take a look at what some US states legislate regarding e-scooters – if your state isn’t covered the listings provide a good guide to the areas you should be researching for your own state and locality.
Some states have no specific e-scooter laws but class them as motor vehicles, for example as mopeds, This can entail requirements for insurance and licencing but it may well in practice prove impossible to obtain such things. All of which throws into relief the impressive efforts the following states have made to clarify the legal position of e-scooters and so facilitate their daily use.
California has well-documented e-scooter laws
California was one of the first states to respond to the e-scooter craze and the California Vehicle Code has quite a lot to say about them.
Max Speed Most states set their e-scooter speed limit at 20 mph a few going for 15mph and California is in the latter camp. CVC §22411 regulates e-scooter speed and going over it can result in a 250 ticket.
Helmets Mandatory? For under 18s only
Where are they Allowed? E-scooters must be ridden in bike lanes (or bikeways, bike paths, bicycle paths etc) whenever one is available.
The law only allows for 4 exceptions to riding in a Class II bike lane:
- While passing another vehicle or pedestrian,
- When completing a left hand turn,
- To avoid debris or other hazards in the bike lane, or
- When turning right.
They are expressly prohibited from sidewalks and crosswalks.
You cannot operate a motorized scooter on a highway with a speed limit in excess of 25 miles per hour unless the motorized scooter is operated within a Class II or Class IV bikeway, except that a local authority may, by ordinance or resolution, authorize the operation of a motorized scooter outside of a Class II or Class IV bikeway on a highway with a speed limit of up to 35 miles per hour. The 15 mile per hour maximum speed limit for the operation of a motorized scooter specified in Section 22411 applies to the operation of a motorized scooter on all highways, including bikeways, regardless of a higher speed limit applicable to the highway.
Do I Need A Licence and How Old Must I Be?
Operators must be at least 16 years old and have a driver’s license or learner’s permit. Tickets for contravening this are usually around 200.
E-scooters though are exempt from registration, and license plate requirements, and, for those purposes, says the vehicle code ‘a motorized scooter is not a motor vehicle’.
What Equipment Should the eScooter Have?
- A lamp emitting a white light which, while the motorized scooter is in motion, illuminates the highway in front of the operator and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the motorized scooter.
- A red reflector on the rear that is visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle
- A white or yellow reflector on each side visible from the front and rear of the motorized scooter from a distance of 200 feet.
Note the front light and rear reflector can be substituted for suitable rider-worn ones.
Effective brakes are mandatory.
Other Rules to Note
CVC §21228 forces E-scooters to turn left by:
- Stopping after the intersection on the right curb,
- Dismounting, and
- Crossing the roadway on foot.
These rules are meant to prevent scooter accidents.
CVC §21221 makes specific mention of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drunk E-scootering can lead to a DUI charge, as well as a traffic ticket of around 350.
Is this an electric skateboard? It is in Michigan, apparently…
Michigan laws are perhaps more typical of how many state laws for electric scooters are arrived at – rather by default through a lack of laws directed at electric scooters, so that they are actually caught by laws aimed at other vehicles. In Michigan’s case they are caught by 2018 legislation enshrined in Michigan’s Vehicle Code apparently aimed at electric skateboards!:
Town and City Jurisdictions
Do always check both your state and local regulations – local regulations can vary state laws on e-scooters or in some cases they can choose to ban them altogether as has happened in places such as Beverley Hills or Bossier to give just two examples amongst many.
While some states are to be commended in clarifying the lines on what is and isn’t allowed on an escooter, not all 50 states have reached the same level yet. Do some research at the state, county, and local level before you rent or purchase a scooter of your own. If the laws aren’t clearly defined, see if you can reach out to your legislators or any local groups advocating for clear laws to be made. As always, remain safe above all else, and have fun while you ride!
Why Did We Need a New E-Scooter Rule?
The new e-scooter law will create a legal, alternative method of transportation, which may help free up motor vehicle traffic on Honolulu roadways. In addition to bikes and mopeds, e-scooters are a convenient, environmentally-friendly, short-distance transportation option for residents who don’t own cars. And as tourism increases, rental cars are harder to come by, making e-scooters all the more vital for visitors.
As motorists increasingly share the road with e-scooter drivers, they must exercise caution. Because scooters are smaller and narrower, checking blind spots carefully will be essential. Similarly, e-scooter riders must be mindful of following traffic laws and taking steps to prevent injury by riding responsibly, wearing bright clothing, and not lingering in blind spots.
Get Legal Help After an E-Scooter Accident in Hawaii
Were you seriously injured in an electric scooter accident in Hawaii? You could be entitled to compensation for your losses. Reach out to an Oahu e-scooter accident lawyer at Recovery Law Center. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by scheduling a free consultation. Call or contact us now.
For over 29 years, attorney Glenn Honda has helped people injured in accidents throughout Hawaii get the best outcome for their case, whether it’s maximizing their settlement, or balancing costs and risks vs. putting the whole experience behind them. As the founding attorney of the Recovery Law Center, he is passionate about helping his clients with their physical, emotional and financial recovery. Mr. Honda will fight to get you coverage for your medical bills, lost wages, damaged property and other costs related to your accident.
Last year, in June of 2019, New York state authorities announced that they had reached a deal and were planning to lift the ongoing ban against throttle-based e-bikes and scooters.
However, at the last minute, state Governor, Andrew Cuomo, vetoed the bill, stating that there was still a lack of regulation surrounding mandatory e-scooter helmet requirements and other safety-related concerns.
But at the same time, the veto meant that, although pedal-assisted e-bikes and scooters were completed legal to use on streets and bike paths throughout the state, throttle-driven e-bikes were banned, with riders facing up to a 500 fine, as well as having their e-bike or scooter confiscated by the NYPD.
The New Deal
The new budget agreement, stricken up on April 1st, 2020, changed state laws so that e-bike and scooters would now be legal statewide. However, local municipalities will still have the power to decide how to regulate the vehicles within their jurisdictions.
So, for example, it will be completely legal for citizens to ride e-bikes around the city. However, localities will need to allow permission for dockless scooters services, such as Lime and Bird, to operate.
With the new legislation, e-bikes will now be categorized into 3 separate classes.
- Class 1. pedal-assisted, no throttle
- Class 2. throttle-assisted with a maximum speed of 20 mph
- Class 3. throttle-assisted with a maximum speed of 25 mph
According to other provisions in the agreement, electric scooters will be capped at a max speed of 15mph, and riders 18 years of age or younger will be required to wear a helmet. Lastly, riders of class-3 e-bikes will also be required to wear a helmet at all times.
Elsewhere, throttle-assisted electric bikes and scooters will still be illegal in Manhattan, but the city will eventually be able to overrule that provision if necessary.
Unfortunately, this news comes during the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, which has recently taken the world by storm, having drastic consequences on the economy, and especially on rental e-bike companies like Bird and Lime, which were already struggling to make ends meet because to the ban that was previously in place.
In fact, according to The Verge, Bird has recently laid off roughly 30% of its employees, and Lime has announced that they are considering the same due to the ongoing pandemic.
A Brighter Future For E-Bike Lovers (And The Planet)
Of course, this isn’t just a big change for e-bike lovers in the state of New York. In fact, when you look at it from a much bigger perspective, this is also a huge win for the environment, especially when you consider the impact this could have in major metropolitan areas like New York City.
Today, the state of new york has a population of just shy one 20 million people and back in 2015, it was estimated that New Yorkers created roughly 6.1 metric tons of greenhouse gas per capita. And although this number is significantly lower than the national average of 19 metric tons, it still helps to illustrate the fact that the state of New York produces a vast amount of pollution.
However, by making it legal for New Yorkers to ride electric e-bikes and scooters, authorities have single-handedly taken a huge step towards reducing the state’s carbon footprint. And not mention, making it easier to get around in extremely dense areas like New York City.
Of course, just because a law has been passed, it doesn’t mean that every one of New York’s denizens is going to go out and buy an e-bike. But the fact is that the previous ban on electric bikes and scooters deterred many people from even considering them as a mode of transportation.
So now, it’s significantly more likely that New Yorkers will consider making the switch to this eco-friendly mode of transportation. And in the end, no matter how you look at it, this new legislation is a step in the right direction for the state of New York, which boasts one of the largest and most dense populations in all of the United States.
That wraps it up. We recommend you check out our e-scooter safety tips before braving the streets.
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