10 Things You Need to Know About Electric Scooters and California Law
There’s not much question about it; electric scooters have fast become a go-to transportation alternative for Californians. This is especially true for those living in highly populated urban areas with heavy traffic, extremely high energy prices and costly parking rates.
Public transit in many areas of California – the San Francisco Bay Area, for example – is a viable and utilitarian option for many. But public transit can be crowded and schedules may not work for everyone in every situation. Ridesharing? That can get expensive, it’s subject to traffic conditions and rides from and to specific locations at specific times aren’t always readily available.
The development of powerful lithium-ion batteries coupled with tiny and lightweight yet mighty electric motors has made small electric scooters an alternative that addresses many transportation needs in concentrated urban areas.
Modern scooters; more than just vacation fun
Scooters – at least in the U.S. market – have not generally been viewed as a legitimate means of transportation. But now, thanks in part to updated battery technology that makes it possible for an electric scooter to easily reach speeds of 15 miles per hour, with a range of up to 25 miles after an overnight charge from an ordinary wall socket, many urban residents and commuters are at least considering the scooters as a transportation option.
In fact, the U.S. electric scooter market reached an estimated $620 million in sales in 2022, and industry experts forecast that market to grow to $2,348 million by 2030. They’re inexpensive, require little storage space, they work, and they’re even green.
But what are the laws in California regulating electric scooters?
As quickly as electric scooters have caught on, state, county and municipal lawmakers have developed and refined laws regulating their use. So, it you’re considering buying and using an electric scooter for transportation or just fun, or if you already have one, below are nine laws and one legal tip you should consider:
Just like other vehicles, electric scooters have speed limits
Generally speaking, in California the speed limit for electric scooters is 15 miles per hour. And yes, people caught exceeding the 15 mile per hour speed limit for electric scooters have been – and will likely continue to be – cited by police. If the posted speed limit is less than 15 miles per hour, then that speed limit applies.
Stay in your lane
California law requires operators of electric scooters to ride in bike lanes when they are available. There are exceptions, such as passing another vehicle, avoiding debris, or turning.
Helmets are mandatory for riders 18 and under
Adults over 18 may ride an electric scooter while not wearing a helmet, but minors are required to do so. Again, violators may be cited. Fines imposed for violations may vary by jurisdiction, but average approximately $200.
You need a valid driver’s license
Many electric scooter riders are shocked to learn that under California law, operators are required to have a valid driver’s license.
Keep off the sidewalks
Riding an electric scooter on a sidewalk is illegal with the exceptions of going from a street to a parking spot or vice versa.
No passengers allowed
Electric scooters may not be used in tandem. One rider per scooter is the law.
Crosswalks are for pedestrians only
Under California law, electric scooters may not be ridden on crosswalks. In the eyes of the law, crosswalks are extensions of sidewalks, where scooters are also not permitted to operate. You may carry or wheel a scooter on a crosswalk, however.
No left turns
Electric scooters are the smallest vehicles on the road and are usually the least visible. California law requires riders to pass through the intersection, stop on the right curb, then cross the street on foot with the traffic light. This may seem to be a heavy and unnecessary burden but left turns in traffic are statistically one of the most dangerous actions a scooter rider can take.
When in doubt, understand an electric scooter is a motor vehicle
This means laws applying to motor vehicles apply to electric scooters. And this specifically applies to operating an electric scooter under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Yes, you can be cited for DUI if you’re caught “drunk scootering.”
It’s important to know the laws of your municipality or county. These can vary – sometimes significantly – by jurisdiction, so get acquainted with your local laws. Also, pay attention to and follow regulations posted in parks, on bike paths and other locations.
Keep up on electric scooter laws
It’s important to remember that laws regulating electric bikes scooters are in many cases new and have evolved rapidly in recent years and may continue to do so. Understanding what is and isn’t legal in your specific county, city, or municipality is key. You also should know that if you’re riding an electric scooter, you have extensive legal protection.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an electric scooter accident or if you have been cited for a traffic violation while riding one, contact us today for a complimentary consultation. We are advocates for all cyclists and electric scooter operators. We have extensive experience in representing cyclists and scooter owners. We know the laws protecting you and we’re here to help you.