Are electric scooters street legal?

 You are ready to buy your first electric scooter. Or it's already in the mail. Now you are wondering if you can legally ride them in your state and city. 

Unfortunately there is no easy yes or no answer to this. Electric scooters in their current form are a relatively new phenomenon. They appeared on the scene over the last year following the expansion of scooter sharing services like Bird or Lime.  Electric bikes have been around for years and by now, most state and local lawmakers have caught up and regulations are clear.

For electric scooters we will have to assess case by case and also use some good personal judgement. Ultimately it will depend on how your local policeman is judging the situation.

What are federal regulations for electric scooters in the USA?

I am sure you have guessed it, there is no federal law regarding electric scooters in the US.

Wikipedia states regarding electric bicycles:

The federal Consumer Product Safety Act defines a "low speed electric bicycle" as a two or three wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h) and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp). [...]low speed electric bicycles [...] are exempt from classification as motor vehicles. 

Then Wikipedia lists all states and their respective rules and regulations regarding e-bikes including maximum speed, minimum age, and license /helmet requirements.

Clearly most scooters do not have fully operable pedals so electric bike laws can just be a rough guideline.

The California DMV has already defined a motorized scooter:

  • A motorized scooter is a two-wheeled device that has handlebars, a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by a motor.

  • The Vehicle Code (VC) does not require registration, license plates to be displayed or the scooter to be insured. Local authorities can regulate the registration for these scooters pursuant to VC §21225.

  • Even though insurance is not required, owners of these scooters should contact their insurance company to determine if coverage is available.An

  • operator of a motorized scooter must be at least 16 years old, possess a valid drivers license or instruction permit, and wear a helmet.

  • A motorized scooter may be operated on a bicycle path, trail or bikeway, but not on a sidewalk. On the roadway, it must be operated in the bicycle lane, if there is one. On roads without bicycle lanes, motorized scooters may operate where the speed limit is 25 mph or less, and shall be ridden as close to the right hand curb as possible, except to pass or turn left. VC § 21226 (D) prohibits alteration of motorized scooters.

In the state of Texas, motor-assisted scooters are self-propelled devices that have:

  • At least 2 wheels on the ground while riding.
  • Working brakes.
  • An electric or gas motor that doesn't exceed 40 cc / 900W
  • A deck where the driver can sit or stand while riding.
  • The option for human-power operation.

These scooters are usually OK to ride on a street or highway for which the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less. 

Always check local rules and regulations. For instance, in Austin, scooters are generally legal to ride wherever bikes go with key exceptions regarding park trails and certain inner city streets.

What about my state?

We will be adding to this article over time...

DISCLAIMER: This page is provided as help only and does not constitute legal advice. The information in this article may not be comprehensive or current. You are solely responsible for knowing and obeying the laws which pertain to you.

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