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Trying to find a place to skateboard around the Bay Area has been a struggle for decades. The spots to enjoy a ride seem to be shrinking. Now the riders on e-skateboards face the same uphill push.

The problem doesn’t just extend to where to ride, but knowing also what’s legal to ride.

The electric skateboard provides an efficient and climate-friendly solution for heavy traffic and pollution problems that local cities are seeking to limit these days. Local governments seem to praise bicycle and scooter travelers, but don’t offer the same support to skateboarders. E-skateboards can sometimes be saddled with the unfair perceptions that normal skateboarders have to endure.

What is an Electric Skateboard?

To stay legal, it might be helpful to know the legal definition of an electric skateboard according to the state of California.

State Law AB-604 deals with defining the parameters of an electric skateboard:

“An ‘electrically motorized board’ is any wheeled device that has a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding that is not greater than 60 inches deep and 18 inches wide, is designed to transport only one person, and has an electric propulsion system averaging less than 1,000 watts, the maximum speed of which, when powered solely by a propulsion system on a paved level surface, is no more than 20 miles per hour. The device may be designed to also be powered by human propulsion.”

That’s a mouthful but here are some of the highlights. If you’ve got a board that travels faster than 20mph you might be in danger of getting a citation. A higher top speed might also indicate a boosted power source, but to be legal, the output must stay under 1,000 watts. Above that 1,000 watt threshold and your board will likely not be considered an electric skateboard anymore and be subject to a stricter set of laws.

Staying Legal on an Electric Skateboard Ride

  • The Rider: Anyone using an electric skateboard must be at least 16-years-old. A rider must wear a helmet. If you ride at night you are required to have a white or yellow reflector on each side of your person. It must be visible from 200 feet.
  • The Electric Skateboard: To ride at night, your board must be equipped with a lamp emitting a white light illuminating the highway at a distance of 300 feet in front of the e-skateboard. A red reflector must be affixed to the rear and be visible from a distance of 500 feet when hit with vehicle headlights. The board also needs to have white or yellow reflectors on each side.

Where can I ride an Electric Skateboard?

The spots where e-skateboards are welcome can be hard to pinpoint, and the rules seem almost purposely hard to decipher.  What’s more, cities can have their own rules for e-skateboards that differ from state law.

California allows electric skateboards on roads with a speed limit under 35 mph. You are allowed on public bicycle paths, highways, sidewalks, or bikeways but you can’t go faster than 15 mph.

It’s important to note that riders are still required to adjust for changing conditions on the road, just like a motorist. You can be obeying the speed limit, but if conditions like weather or stopped traffic or visibility issues are present that make the legal speed limit too fast for safe travel, you can still get a citation.

The Future of Electric Skateboards

It’s clear that state and local laws will need refreshing as more and more people find enjoyment with electronically enhanced skateboarding and other forms of micromobility.  One day e-boards might once again be lying on street corners as part of all the current rideshare options.

Boosted was one company that tried to mass-market electric skateboards. Verge reported in April 2020 that scooter giant Lime was purchasing the assets of the defunct Boosted company. Several Boosted employees reportedly also joined Lime.  It remains to be seen if this means Lime is going into the electric skateboard business.

One thing is clear, the electric skateboard will remain a familiar sight in the Bay Area and local lawmakers will need to work to find a fair way to handle their presence on the streets.

We are Bay Area Bicycle Law

Bay Area Bicycle Law has spent years advocating for the bicycle and alternative transportation community.  We want safer rides for every cyclist and skateboarder.  In the event of an accident anywhere in the Bay Area, we also want to help protect the victim.  We concentrate our practice solely on bicyclists and other riders who have been injured as a result of the carelessness and negligence of others. We’re dedicated and effective accident lawyers. If you were injured in an accident contact us right away for a confidential free consultation and case review.