Are Electric Scooters Legal On Sidewalks Or Street

By John Oliver

January 24, 2020

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Electric Scooters on the Sidewalk
5 minutes read

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 a 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:

New York

California

Texas 

Michigan

GA and WA

FL, IL, VA, OH,OR

Electric Scooters Laws requirements Internationally

UK

Canada

australia and nz


John Oliver

John Oliver

Disclaimer

Double Check the Law in Your State!
We're not lawyers. Laws are constantly changing.

John Oliver

About the author

Electrical Engineer and father of two. John shares the love of electrical scooters, hoverbords and electric bikes with his kids and his readers here at ElectricScooterExpert.com

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