Ever since they were developed and mass-produced about two decades ago, electric scooters have increased in popularity but you can find more info here. And what’s not to like when it comes to alternative ways of transportation that are 100% safe for the environment, cool, and can get you to your destination in no time?
However, riding them on certain roads has become a matter of public debate almost everywhere in the world.
Each country or state displays its own set of rules and regulations, and, since these vehicles are rather new, it comes as no surprise that universal legislation regarding their use is yet to be perfected. Let’s take a look at the laws in some countries and states to try to shed some light regarding this simple question – are electric scooters allowed on pavements?
The UK case
Electric scooters are similar to the two-wheeled manual vehicles, except they’re smaller, lighter, and feature small electric engines that can power them up. In general, these vehicles are limited to a speed of up to 20 mph, although many of them don’t exceed 10-12 mph. They are mainly used by teenagers and youngsters who are looking for cheap alternative ways to move around the city and get things done without waiting in traffic for too long.
The UK’s case is emblematic when it comes to outdated rules and regulations that take years to adjust to the new realities and new technologies. Believe it or not, under a law dating back from 1835, these electric scooters, alongside hoverboards, powered-unicycles, and segways are considered “carriages”.
Although they are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs) and they don’t need to be registered, they cannot be used on public roads or sidewalks in the United Kingdom. So, where can you actually ride them? The only place where riding a PLEV won’t get you fined is on a closed road or private land, as long as you have the landowner’s permission.
It would take these electric vehicles a license, suitable insurance, and even number plates to be used on the public roads, sideways or pavements.
To add even more to the public confusion, electric bicycles are not treated equally, meaning they are considered identical to regular bikes, so they are allowed on all roads, including pavements.
However, not even normal scooters are allowed on pavements or cycle paths in the UK (they can only be used on roads), so it’s hard to tell whether or not the legislation regarding electric scooters will be altered in the near future.
The France case
Another country with unbearable traffic is France. With over two million people in the metropolitan area alone and twice as much in the suburbs, Paris is the perfect place for trying alternative methods to get to work or school on time, while avoiding heavy traffic.
Thus, electric scooters seemed like the perfect idea, especially since they helped reduce pollution as well. The city even has various pick-up points from which you can hire these vehicles but, unfortunately, there are few places where they are allowed.
In fact, there is a $150 fine for all those who are caught using electric scooters on the pavement, and another $50 if you park them in a way that blocks access. Nevertheless, laws are a little more relaxed than in the UK, and this European trend seems to have caught in other countries and crowded cities on the old continent.
What about the US?
There is a similar situation in the United States, although each state imposes its own rules and regulations. In the country, electric scooters are also defined as PLEVs due to their top speed and power level. And, since they aren’t seen as classic road vehicles, it makes sense that they are not allowed on public roads.
When it comes to their use on sidewalks or pavements, it is really up to each state’s laws. The good news is that in most states, electric scooters are seen similarly to conventional bikes, meaning there aren’t any extra regulations imposed. In other words, you get to ride your vehicle on the sidewalks.
In order to complicate things a little bit, we have taken a closer look at various states and their most important cities to see exactly how the laws regarding electric scooters are applied.
Electric scooters in Texas
This Southern state has been full of controversial laws since the earliest stages but when it comes to electric vehicles, it seems like it is embracing the technological changes. In this state, a motor-assisted scooter is considered legal as long as its power doesn’t exceed 900 watts and can also be handled manually.
Throughout the state, you are allowed to ride electric scooters on the paths specifically destined for bikes but this doesn’t mean you won’t find these vehicles on the streets or sidewalks too, especially if they are limited to a speed of under 35 mph, which most of them are.
However, make sure to remember that the same traffic rules imposed on bikes apply to people riding electric scooters too, and this means obeying speed limits and using your arms to signal each turn. The state’s capital city, Austin, recently adopted similar rules regarding this type of vehicles after a temporary ban in the spring of 2018.
Electric scooters in New York
New York is by far the most crowded city and state in the country, with heavy traffic and a population of over 8.2 million people, all trying to make it to work every day through the narrow, one-way streets. With traffic and pollution being some of the city’s most important problems, it comes as no surprise that alternative vehicles are on the rise.
Silent, smart, lightweight, portable, fast, and green – what’s not to like about electric scooters? If more people were to adopt these vehicles, perhaps the city would become a friendlier place. Unfortunately, it may take a while until regulations will keep up with the market’s demands and modern technologies.
The New York State has banned motorized scooters on highways, sidewalks, parking lots, and streets, so there aren’t too many places where you can brag about your alternative transportation vehicle.
The good news is that, in 2018, the state’s capital city, NYC, allowed pedal-assist electric bikes to be used on pavements and sidewalks, so we can only hope that rules will eventually change in the favor of those with electric scooters as well.
Electric scooters in California
The sunny Cali has seen the rage of electric scooters up close, with major cities like Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and San Francisco being swept over by them in the past few years. Finally, people had an eco-friendly and fun alternative to bikes or personal cars for getting across town in a fashionable time, without being stuck in traffic for hours.
There were even some companies that offered these products for rent, turning them into an attractive solution for both locals and tourists. However, it was exactly their increased popularity that made law-enforcement people take a closer look at the regulations, coming up with a set of guidelines.
Thus, as of February 2018, electric scooters are legal only with a valid driver’s license, a bike helmet, and with a maximum speed of 15 mph. You won’t get to ride them on the sidewalk but they can be used on the streets with a maximum speed of over 25 mph as long as they aren’t on a bike line.
As confusing as all these rules may sound, the best way to stay safe and obey by the law is to check local regulations from your state and city.