Starting in 2019, adults riding scooters on the streets or bike paths will not have to wear a helmet under a new California law that changed several provisions of the existing laws governing scooters. These laws are in response to the popularity of the scooter rental program such as Bird and Lime.
According to a spokesperson for Bird—a sponsor of the legislation—the previous helmet law substantially discouraged people from renting a scooter as they would have to carry a helmet with them if they wanted to ride the scooter. The new law still requires minors to wear helmets, although a new law made changes to how courts handle tickets for failure to wear helmets.
Opponents of the new law cite safety as their main objection. “In a state that requires motorcyclists to wear a helmet, it’s puzzling to see that same requirement stripped from motorized scooter riders operating on the same streets,” said an officer with Riverside Police Department’s Traffic Bureau. He went to say that the new law opens more California roads to electric scooter riders, where they’ll be exposed to even faster traffic.
The new law still requires a scooter rider to have a valid driver’s license, but it allows local authorities such as townships and cities, to allow scooters on roadways that have a 35 mph speed limit. Without a local law allowing to the contrary, scooters can’t be ridden on streets with a speed limit higher than 25 mph.
However, the maximum speed allowed for a scooter while driving on the allowed streets is 15 mph even if the posted speed of the road is higher.
In summary, the new law allows for:
- Riding a scooter can ride on without a helmet if the person is at least 18 years old.
- Regardless of the street’s speed limit, the rider can still ride on a class II bike path (lane marked for bikes with white lines) or class IV bike path (bike lane protected by physical barrier or raised pathway), but can’t go faster than 15 mph.
- Ride on streets with a speed limit of 25 mph, but still can’t go faster that 15 mph.
- Ride on 35 mph streets if the local authorities (county, city, township) passes an ordinance allowing it, but even then, still can’t go faster than 15 mph.
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