If you’re here you might also be interested in finding the best electric scooter for adults, so check our guide on that when you have the time.
Scooters have become more and more popular recently, especially electric ones. Nowadays you can find many different types of scooters, each with special features and the mileage that they can offer becomes more impressive day by day. Taking this evolution into account, it’s obvious that some people wonder whether their scooter can be used on public roads. So let’s find out if you can use your scooter on the street legally.
Defining a scooter
Before finding out the regulation about riding a scooter on public roads, we must first know how the law defines scooters and other vehicles, whether they’re motorized or not. The state of California offers the best example of how small vehicles are distinguished between categories.
In their classification, they show that there are 4 main types of cycles. The first of them is motorcycles. Most people know how to distinguish a motorcycle from other kinds of vehicles; however, the law is specific and it says that a motorcycle is a vehicle that has an engine bigger than 150cc and that the vehicle should have no more than 3 wheels.
To ride a motorcycle you need to register it and you also need to have the M1 driving license. Those that have this license are also able to ride smaller 2-wheeled vehicles that aren’t classified as motorcycles.
Then you have the motor-driven cycles, which are very similar to motorcycles but have a smaller engine capacity (less than 150cc). Like the motorcycle, such a vehicle needs to be registered and the rider also needs the M1 driving license.
The moped or motorized bicycle is next on the list and the main thing that sets it apart from the others is that it can’t reach speeds of more than 30 mph. It also needs to have pedals to be classified like this. Those that ride such a bicycle are required to have an M1 or M2 driver license, but they don’t need to pay all the taxes that are associated with more powerful 2-wheeled vehicles.
Finally, there are the scooters or electric scooters. These are the vehicles that have 2 wheels and most importantly handlebars and a floorboard that the rider stands on when riding. Scooters need to be powered by a motor and the driver still needs a driving license. However, these vehicles don’t have to be registered.
Motorized scooters in the USA
Although scooters don’t require registration or license plates, local authorities have the possibility of regulating these aspects and they can decide to enforce registration. Insurance is usually not required, but people riding them can choose to discuss coverage with their insurance company.
These scooters can be used on bicycle paths, trails or bikeways; however, you aren’t allowed to operate them on sidewalks. There are certain rules that you need to follow when riding a scooter. The first of them is that you should always be wearing a fastened bicycle helmet if you are under 18 (or younger in some states). The only exception to that is if the scooter has brakes that allow you to perform a braked wheel skid on a level, clean pavement.
Although a minimum age is not required, you still need a driver’s license or at least an instruction permit to ride a scooter. Carrying any passengers with you is strictly forbidden. In regards to packages or anything similar, you must still be able to hold at least one hand on the handlebars. This rule is quite self-explanatory.
You can use the scooter on a highway, but to do that you must ensure that you don’t need to raise your hands above your shoulders when holding the handlebars. But you can’t use the scooter on all highways. In areas where the minimum speed limit is 25 mph, riding a scooter is forbidden. Local authorities, however, have the possibility to alter this law and allow scooter riders to go on highways with a minimum speed limit of 35 mph.
Other than that you are allowed to ride on the one-way bikeways that are placed on some streets or highways, or on the bikeways physically separated from motor traffic. You are not allowed to ride your scooter at a speed that exceeds 15 mph, no matter the highway.
Laws in some states
California is the state that started paying serious attention to the new surge of electric scooters and the state quickly adapted its regulations to fit the needs of people and authorities too. Scooters are legal in this state but they do face a few restrictions that serve more as safety regulations.
These rules say that the scooter owner needs a driver’s license, the scooter shouldn’t go at speeds higher than 15 mph and that the scooter needs to operate on the specific lanes designed for bikes and small vehicles like that. In essence, California treats scooters as bikes and allows each city to establish its own rules regarding these vehicles.
The law in Texas helps scooter owners too and it allows them to move freely in cities. Motor scooters need to have an engine that’s capable of delivering less than 900 watts of power. Scooter drivers are allowed to ride their vehicles on the side of the road or on specially designed paths for bikes.
The traffic laws set for bicycles are to be followed by scooter riders as well. What’s great in Texas is that you can ride your scooter on streets with a minimum speed limit of 35 mph. Because it was free to make its own decisions regarding electric scooters, the city of Austin embraced the new technology and now allows scooters, albeit with a few minor restrictions.
Although there are some states where riding a scooter is allowed nearly anywhere, in other parts of the USA, you aren’t allowed to go through the city on such a vehicle. New York State, for example, doesn’t allow any kind of vehicle that could be classified as a motorized scooter to be driven on any road, highway or sidewalk.
However, this could be changing, as the state recently passed a law that allows the use of pedal-assisted electric bicycles. Knowing that electric scooters are closely related to that, maybe New York State will be a place where scooter enthusiasts will be able to ride from home to work soon.
What’s important to learn after reading all of this is that each state and city can pass its own laws in regards to the use of motorized scooters. So before deciding to buy a scooter, check the laws in your area and make sure you are allowed to ride it.
The situation in Canada is fairly similar to the one in the USA, so if you’re planning to go there on vacation and you want to take your scooter with you, it’s best if you check the local regulations first. The law in Canada treats motorized scooters as bicycles, so chances are you can ride a scooter there without any issues.
If you visit the UK and want to move around with the help of an electric scooter you should know that their regulations are tougher and they don’t allow them on streets or on pavements. However, if you ride a scooter on the sidewalk and you aren’t going too fast, the police won’t stop you.