With electrical scooters rising in popularity, many scooter owners are asking themselves the question "Where are electric scooters legal"? Since electric scooters are powered by batteries and theirs electric motors comes in various speeds, they're technically not classified as motor vehicles, so the legality of their usage can vary from state to state, or even from city to city.
While where you are allowed to ride your scooter legally can get a bit murky, breaking things down location by location can help clear up where exactly you can and can not ride your scooter.
Are Electric Scooters Legal on Sidewalks
Electric scooters, while not classified as motor vehicles, are seen as similar to things like electric bicycles. Since electric scooters can reach speeds upwards of 25mph, they're generally seen as a hazard when ridden in a space shared with pedestrians. Thanks to their relatively high speeds, it is illegal to ride an electric scooter on sidewalks in most places.
Can You Ride on a Footpath
Since footpaths are used exclusively by pedestrians, you also can't ride an electric scooter on footpaths. Simply put, if you'll have to share the space with pedestrians, don't ride your scooter there. It's probably not legal, and it'll be a lot safer for everyone if you don't.
Are Electric Scooters Street Legal
In order to determine if electric scooters are street legal, it's important to understand what the term 'street legal' means to begin with. Street legal is a set criteria that vehicles must fall into in order to make them legal to be used on all public roads, highways, etc. 2002 Federal Law defined electric bikes as “two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp).”
Determining if your electric scooter is street legal might take a little bit of research on your part. A lot of manufacturers have made modifications to their designs to make certain models of scooter street legal, such as adding a pedal system or tweaking the motor output or top speed of the scooter.
Most street legal scooters are going to be advertised as street legal on the packaging since it's a common selling point for people who plan on using their electric scooters as their primary means of transportation.
Can You Ride an Electric Scooter on a Bike Path
This is where things can get a little tricky, as this can depend on the type of scooter you are using. If you're using a full-sized street legal scooter, most states prohibit the use of your scooter on bike paths or in a bike lane, as many street legal scooters can reach speeds of up to 65mph in order to keep up with traffic.
If you are using a smaller non-street legal scooter, then you have a little more leeway. Generally, you would be allowed to use a bike path with one of these smaller scooters, or the bike lane on a roadway if available if the bike path is on public or state-owned property.
Can You Ride Electric Scooters on Bike Trails
This one really comes down to the specific bike trail. While many trails going through public or state-owned land might follow the same ordinances as bike paths and bike lanes, a large number of bike trails run through any privately owned property that is made open to the public (such as nature preserves, sightseeing locales, resorts, etc).
Many of these locales have their own rules and guidelines on what they do and do not allow, so call ahead and find out if they have banned electric scooters from using their bike trails before just giving it a shot and hoping for the best.
Can You Ride Electric Scooters on Pavement
For the same reason as sidewalks and footpaths, the answer is likely no, especially if you have a street-legal scooter. Since pavement is usually shared by pedestrians, odds are you won't be able to ride your scooter there. This is not the case for offroad driveways and other privately owned stretches of pavement though, as the use of electric scooters on private property is up to the discretion of the owner.
Do I Need a License to Ride an Electric Scooter
Since many electric scooters meet the same requirements as electric bicycles, you don't need license plates or insurance to operate them. You do, however, need to be in possession of a driver's license or at least a permit in order to legally operate them. In addition, the minimum age requirement in order to operate an electric scooter is 16 in most states.
You are also required to wear the proper safety gear such as an electric scooter helmet, follow the rules of the road as if you were on a bicycle or driving a street-legal vehicle, and you are prohibited from ridesharing.
Do Electric Scooters Need to be Registered
For the most part, electric scooters do not need to be registered. In many states, you actually can't register an electric scooter. This does cause some problems in some states like New York, where motor vehicles need to be registered in order to be used on the road.
There are a few exceptions where some street-legal electric scooters may be classified more as a moped, or another motor vehicle which can be registered, but those are very few and far between.
Electric scooters are not classified as full motor vehicles and therefore it is unusual that you would have to have any form of registration or license in order to legally ride it on streets.
This is generally based on the motor power the electric scooter is equipped with and its top speed. The Federal Law of 2002 in the US states that if an electric bike has a top speed of no more than 20 mph and a motor power of less than 750W, it will be classified as street legal.
If your electric scooter falls into this range then it will also be street legal and will not require license or registration in most states.
Electric Scooters Laws requirements in Various States
There are a few areas in particular that have specific laws regarding electric scooters. These laws may change as time goes on and electric scooters work their way more comfortably into vehicle and traffic law, finding their place on the road. At the time of writing this article:
Electric scooters are illegal to use in New York. They are considered motor vehicles, but can not be registered. Since it's illegal to use motor vehicles on sidewalks, and you need to have your vehicle registered in order to use it on the roadway, New York scooter owners are out of luck unless they ride on their own private property.
In California, electric scooters are allowed on bike paths, trails, and 25mph roads without a bike lane and must be ridden as close to the right-hand curb as possible. Any local or state laws or ordinances that would ban scooters from a particular road take precedence though.
In Florida, electric scooters are illegal to use on sidewalks or bike paths but are generally allowed on roadways.
Texas allows the use of electric scooters on roadways so long as they can not exceed 20mph in electric-only mode (more in relation to electric bicycles) and does not exceed 100lbs. There are other local ordinances that may prohibit the use of electric scooters though so it is best to check beforehand.
Michigan has a similar situation to California. You can ride a scooter, but only on streets with speed limits below 25mph. If you ride it during the night, you must have a front light visible as far as 500 ft. Reflector on the back must be visible as far as 600 ft and a red light must be visible next to the reflector.
Also, only one rider is allowed on a single scooter and riders under 12 years of age can't ride electric scooters on the road.
Law in GA, and WA: Ride only with a permit, a driver’s license or State identification card. The rider must not be younger than 16 and he/she will have to ride on bicycle lanes and bicycle paths. That means you can ride where bicycles go. The electric street scooter you buy must have a lamps and reflectors for night ride.
Ride only with a permit, a driver’s license or State identification card. The rider must not be younger than 16 and he/she will have to ride on bicycle lanes and bicycle paths. That means you can ride where bicycles go. The electric street scooter you buy must have a lamps and reflectors for night ride.
Electric Scooters Laws requirements Internationally
In the UK, electric scooters are illegal on both roads and pavements, with no plans to change these laws any time in the near future.
Are you hoping electric scooters are legalized in the UK? Sign the petition here
In Canada, motorized bicycles and scooters are classified under federal law and each province can make minor changes such as age requirements and each municipality can make changes as to where they are permitted to be used.
Electric bikes and scooters are generally legal in Canada. These vehicles are also known as power-assisted bicycles, electric scooters, e-bikes, and e-scooters, and the laws for them are very similar to traditional bicycles. They require no license, plates or insurance to own or operate.
Canada's law on electric scooters varies by province. In Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario they are not recognized as motor vehicles and as such can only be operated on private land. Calgary, however, is in the middle of a 2-year pilot program legalizing electric scooters on roadways. Quebec is also in the middle of a pilot program, but with very rigid training, age, and safety requirements with harsh fines for not following the laws.
When it comes to Queensland and NZ, they are legal there, but only kids above 12 can ride it with their parents supervising and teens above 16 can ride it alone. The good thing is that you don't need a license for it if you are over 16 years old. The top speed of a street legal scooter is 25mph and you have to have a helmet and lights for the night rides. But you aren't allowed to ride it on the road or bike lanes, only on the paths.
When it comes to New South Wales, for now, there are electric scooters illegal on the street but you can use it on private land. This can change in the future. That is the only electric road scooters part in Australia where they are illegal.
Victoria has a similar story as Queensland so you can see electric road scooters in Melbourne traffic. The only difference is that every electric scooter with a top speed above 10mph needs to be registered if you want to ride it on the street.
Electric scooters are still fairly new and rising in popularity, and traffic laws and regulations are still inconsistent at best when it comes to what's legal and what's not. While the advice above is good to use as a general rule of thumb, it's important to understand your local state laws regarding electric scooters. You can find more information on electric scooter laws for your area on the DMV website or at your local DMV.
All in all, always obey the rules of the road while on your scooter and ensure you can legally operate one. Many states have hefty fines attached to scooter violations to help curb any misuse of the scooters since they can be dangerous if used improperly.
Lastly, if you're looking to purchase an electric scooter, research the different models and which as street-legal, and understand which scooter can be used there to make sure you get a scooter that best suits your needs.