Even though people have been using electric scooters since the end of the 20th century, they have only recently been popularized among users. The number of people riding scooters, especially in America, is impressively high. Bird, an electric scooter rental service, has grown drastically and now has people riding their scooters in dozens of cities across the globe. So the real problem for pedestrians has become electric scooters and whether they are allowed on sidewalks? Let’s find out!
Are Electric Scooters Allowed on Sidewalks?
Are Electric Scooters Allowed on Sidewalks? Electric Scooters can be ridden on sidewalks in most of the states in America, Europe, and Australia. However, riders are encouraged to go slow while they are using sidewalks, to avoid accidents. In states like California, Germany, and France you cannot ride scooters on a sidewalk.
The company’s estimated value right now is around 2 billion US dollars. People can easily rent electric scooters by using their smartphone apps. The system works like a faster and simpler city center bicycle hire shop. With so many different companies entering the scooter market and launching new models, it is important to be aware of the operating and product quality standards that apply to this type of transportation vehicle.
One of the most commonly asked questions relating to electric scooters is: Where can electric scooters be ridden? On the sidewalk, in bike lanes, or in the streets with the rest of the traffic participants such as cars, trucks, and motorcycles? Even though the question is quite simple, unfortunately, the answer is not.
It depends on the laws and regulations of that specific place you intend on riding your electrical scooter at. Because not all-electric scooters have visible rear red lights, number plates, or signaling ability, they are often not allowed on road. Riding one on the road would then be committing an offense.
Electric Scooter Laws Vary From State to State.
As mentioned in the text above, rules and regulations about riding electric scooters vary from state to state or country to country. These are some examples:
- In California, electric scooters are only allowed on the right-hand side of the road near the curb or on a marked bike lane. It is also important to know that the regulations order you to walk your scooter across the road while passing through an intersection, just like you would with a bicycle.
- In Texas, riding electric scooters is allowed basically anywhere, you name it. On the road with the rest of the traffic, in the bike lanes or on the sidewalk. They do though suggest using bike lanes instead of the sidewalk, but taking the sidewalk is not against the law. Although in Austin there are some parts of the sidewalk that are off-limits to scooters, most would still be okay for use. Still make sure to do your research before taking your scooter out for a spin.
- In Colorado, the regulations are quite strict, allowing you to ride an electrical scooter exclusively on the sidewalk. The electrical scooter is viewed as a toy by the government and not as a transportation vehicle.
- In Washington DC, riding a scooter on a sidewalk is prohibited when bike lanes are available, so make sure you are not overlooking bike lanes and taking the sidewalk when not completely necessary.
By now, you have probably gotten the idea that rules and regulations on surfaces electrical scooters are allowed, vary from location to location. With that confusion with the rules, the only thing we can do, is advise you to check the website of your state Department of Motor Vehicles. You will probably be able to find all the correct information and instructions on what the right thing to do is.
Larger cities such as Washington D.C, New York, or San Francisco will probably have the needed information on their city websites since many people want to know the answer to this question, just like you do. Another option if you, for some reason, cannot find the answer online, is asking the local police. It is better to call on your own initiative and find out all the information you need instead of getting in trouble and talking to them after you have done something wrong. It is a silly cause to get in trouble for, so make sure you do not!
Even though laws are very versatile and might seem hard to keep up on, your duty as a responsible citizen is to follow them. Here are a few general laws that apply in most places.
- You must wear a helmet if you are under the age of 16
- You are not allowed to drive an e-scooter on a public road if you are below the age 16.
- You cannot ride a full-sized scooter on the sidewalk or bike path because their speed can reach up to 60 miles per hour which is way too fast for a pedestrian area.
- You can ride an electric scooter on the pavement if the maximum speed the scooter reaches is 30 miles per hour.
- While riding a scooter that is 50cc with a top speed of 30 miles per hour or higher, you are required to have a valid driver’s license
You are expected to renew your registration annually if the scooter you are riding is full-sized.
Is the e-scooter Revolution Doomed?
In many cities across the globe, electrical scooters have been banned from sidewalks. Because of that riders are forced to ride in the streets and sadly that often causes accidents. It would be much safer for riders to use sidewalks and other types of substrate that are further away from traffic, consisting of vehicles that move much faster than an electrical scooter.
Since 2018, 24 out of 26 reported rider deaths have been from no other than the electric scooter riders themselves. The law that prohibits riding on the sidewalks has not been made to endanger anyone really. The point of it was to make a safer walking area for pedestrians. Knowing all these electrical scooter riders are put in a position to make a terrible decision: endanger themselves or endanger others.
What Might Make Scooters Safer
There are quite a few things that can be done to prevent e- scooter riders from getting into accidents and making the environment safer for them and for others. Standardizing laws, infrastructure, and promoting educated riding is a step in the right direction. Since electrical scooters are currently available to anyone with a smartphone and a credit card, many of those who rent them are inexperienced and quite incapable of riding the scooter safely.
First-time and inexperienced riders are often, not on purpose, of course, the cause of accidents (one-third of the accidents are caused by inexperienced drivers) so making riding training before riding e-scooters on your own mandatory, would most definitely increase safety and decrease the chances of people getting hurt.
Moped rideshare company Revel offers free two-hour training classes for new electrical scooter riders as well as a short training video. Additionally, the company provides helmets in two different sizes that riders can take when renting the scooter. If you are thinking: “Many people using the same helmet?! Gross!” But when you look, there is no need for panic, because the helmets are being sanitized several times a week.
Another great solution is to start treating e-scooters as bicycles. A good example of what the rules should impose are the rules followed in the city of Calgary. Calgary, just recently in 2019., put out a few orders and guidelines making them the new e-scooter laws, allowing riders to ride e-scooters on sidewalks, pathways, and bike lanes.
On the contrary to many American city laws, which force riders to stay on the road and risk making or suffering from accidents, Calgary laws prohibit riders from being in them at all. Helmets are strongly encouraged to the point where you could interpret that expectation as mandatory, and riders can be fined for interfering with pedestrians in any way that could possibly dangerous.
In many places where bike infrastructure does not exist yet or is not connected well enough, sidewalks are then the second-best option. They are then the safest place for electrical scooter riders and others as well. Even though there have been accidents in which the riders would harm pedestrians, we must look at the bigger picture. Opening sidewalks to e-scooters would lead to fewer fatal injuries.
Electric and Hand Signals
No matter what the surface you are riding on is, you must make sure to give appropriate signals about your direction to other traffic participants, just as you would give signals while you are in a car or on a motorcycle. Turn signals for electrical scooters can be bought for less than 15 dollars and they could potentially save your life (LINK TO BUY). They are very easy to install and they work similarly to just any other turn signs cars would have.
They are placed on the handlebar and you use them to blink before you turn, easy! These should be installed especially when, because of having an electrical scooter that is hard to operate one-handed, you cannot just use hand signals. If you think you can use hand gestures without risking anyone’s safety, here are some of the most important ones:
- To signalize stopping, extend your left arm out and bend your arm down at the elbow.
- To signalize turning right, extend your right arm perpendicular to your body.
- To signalize turning left, raise your left arm perpendicular to your body.
No matter what method you choose, make sure you are signaling other participants in some way. It is crucial for everyone’s safety and wellbeing.
There are so many great things about electric scooters. They are ecofriendly, they save you time because you do not have to wait in traffic, and they are easy to maintain. Although, they are quite dangerous. The electric scooter usage and riding laws are various and hard to keep track of. They are also a cause for disagreement within scooters and bike advocates some saying that electric scooters belong on the road and those who disagree arguing scooters should be ridden on the sidewalks and bike lanes. What you can do is make sure you are following the rules and regulations of the place you are spending your time riding at and take as many precautions as necessary to stay safe. Enjoy!