If you want to start commuting using an electric scooter but you don’t know if it’s legal to drive it on public roads, you can find more info here. Whether a scooter is street legal depends on each country or state law. In general, scooters shouldn’t go faster than 20mph and the engine should produce a maximum of 750W. Also, an appropriate lighting system is mandatory.
For any type of vehicle to be street legal, it has to meet certain criteria that are established by the local or state authorities. If a vehicle meets these specifications it is safe for you and for other traffic participants.
So it should have a headlight, tail light, signal light, and an efficient braking system. Furthermore, you must be visible to other drivers on the road so a specific configuration of lighting is required and most importantly, the vehicle must respect certain safety standards.
Having a vehicle that complies with the set standards doesn’t mean you can automatically drive it. You must find out if you need a license in order to drive your new electric scooter on public roads.
The federal law for e-scooters
Even though a specific law for e-scooters doesn’t exist yet, the federal law used for electric bikes is also used to govern electric scooters. According to this law, any vehicle with two or three wheels powered by an electric motor should not have a top speed higher than 20mph and the motor must produce a maximum of 750W.
License and registration
If the electric scooter is safe to drive according to the official standards and it is compliant with the Federal Law, you can drive it legally on public roads. Most of the states don’t require a driver’s license or any kind of registration but you should check it before driving the e-scooter.
Some of the states have their own laws and requirements when it comes to supervising electric scooter use.
Can you legally drive an electric scooter in the United States? It depends on which state you live in, but probably you may drive one. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, scooters without a seat which are driven in a stand-up position, are not considered motor vehicles and they are not legislated on a national level.
So it depends on the city authorities to establish if electric scooters can be driven on the city’s public roads. For example, Los Angeles and San Francisco banned the use of electric scooters when a start-up business flooded the city streets with thousands of e-scooters.
Nevertheless, some cities approved pilot programs for e-scooters. They did not yet legalize e-scooters, but they started pilot schemes to see how these micro-mobility vehicles can impact the city’s traffic.
In New York, you can legally operate an electric scooter capable of speeds up to 20 mph. Keep in mind the island of Manhattan opted out saying the streets are way too overcrowded already.
If you plan on riding an electric scooter in Canada, don’t forget the rules vary by province. E-scooters are not considered motor vehicles by present laws in Ontario, British Columbia, or Alberta. So you can ride an electric scooter only on private properties and in some cases, on pavements.
However, Calgary is currently having a two-year pilot program which may cause the laws regarding e-scooters to be reviewed. A similar program is taking place in Quebec with rigorous rules regarding the driver’s age, guidance, and equipment conformity. Not respecting the laws will result in a big fine, so double-check the imposed requirements.
Some of the European countries started to accept the electric scooter sharing system. For example, Germany just made it legal to ride an electric scooter on public roads. You can ride the e-scooter on pavements only in ‘exceptional cases’.
The driver must be over 14 years old, wear protective equipment and the scooter’s maximum speed should not exceed 20kmph (12.4 mph). Currently, the start-ups are battling to get the best position on the pay-to-ride scooter market.
In the Netherlands, electric scooters have been a great success. Dutch people were already using their own bikes or a bike-sharing system so they quickly became fans of e-scooters as a form of transportation. Keep in mind it is against the law to operate an electric scooter if it’s not authorized by the country’s vehicle authority (RDW).
Riders must be older than 16 years and must have insurance for their electric scooter. A fitted plate to prove it is required. You can ride the scooter in bike lanes, but not faster than 25mph.
Electric scooters became a trendy way to move around the city in France, but the transport minister decided e-scooters can’t be driven on pavements. Anyone who drives a scooter on pavements will be fined €135 ( almost $150). However, you can still ride an electric scooter in cycle lanes or on the road.
The electric scooter sharing system has recently been legalized in Italy and sharing services became available in Italy’s big cities. People living in Pisa, Rome, and Florence can now rent a scooter to make small trips.
Smart choices for e-scooter enthusiasts
Now that we have talked about where you can legally ride an electric scooter, we put together a list of scooters you might like. All of these scooters are designed to be street legal but you should check the local laws before buying one.
The Ojo commuter
The Ojo electric scooter was designed by Ojo Electric, a start-up from Santa Monica. It also got some help from the Ford Motor Company as the Ojo electric is a subsidy of the car producer.
The Ojo commuter was specially designed to be a good fit for America’s most crowded cities. A lot of the developers’ focus was put into making the scooter as light as possible. So it comes with an aluminum chassis and the total weight is lower than 65 pounds.
If you are looking for a scooter you can easily carry with you inside the office or the apartment, this scooter might represent a good fit for you. You can legally drive this e-scooter in bike lanes and it’s equipped with a 500W engine which will allow you to move around the town with a top speed of 20 mph.
The Ojo commuter is also equipped with rear suspension for the road’s bumps, an incorporated wall charger, and a system of LED lights to make the scooter more visible for other drivers. Currently, the scooter is available in three colors and its price varies according to your configuration choices.
While the name might be a bit difficult to remember, this is a great choice if you are looking for an e-scooter with a little bit of room. The ATE-501 scooter weighs more than the Ojo commuter as its listed weight is 220 pounds. This gives you the feeling of driving a sturdier and heavier scooter without affecting its maneuverability.
But you are being rewarded for the additional weight. The ATE-501 scooter has a trunk where you can put anything you may need to keep with you during your trips. The scooter comes with a 500W engine and only needs a push of a button to get it started.
It also includes front and rear suspension, a twist-system throttle, and light fittings for night time and weather conditions involving reduced visibility. Even if the ATE-501 electric scooter is similar to a regular scooter, it is street legal.
The SEEV-800 scooter has an unusual design for an electric scooter. This scooter resembles an old school chopper with its large wheels and wide handlebars. Because of the supplementary power needed to turn the bigger wheels, the SEEV-800 has an 800W engine.
Even if it has a bigger engine, the scooter can’t go faster than 15 mph. However, it has a better range than most scooters as you can make 50-mile trips on a single charge. More experienced riders can turn by leaning and shifting their body weight so they can drive without hardly needing to turn the handlebars physically.
The wheels are so big that the scooter maintains its balance without a lot of help from you. Because of its unique style of driving, the SEEV-800 is advertised as a lifestyle scooter and it was designed to be used for more than just commuting.
Because of this, producers put an accent on a more balanced frame and ease of use instead of characteristics that would be helpful to daily commuters.