For the past few years, electric scooters or E-scooters have been all the rage for Californians seeking an accessible and environmentally friendly alternative to public transportation. This is due in part to the efforts of Lime, Bird and Spin, three California-based E-scooter sharing companies.
Lauded by some as a welcome way to ease congestion and pollution in urban centers, E-scooter sharing, in particular, also has its share of detractors. In California, regulatory concerns resulted in the changes to several laws that took effect in 2019. Here are some important e-scooter laws you need to know.
The legal definition of a motorized scooter
For the purposes of this discussion, an E-scooter is classified as a motorized scooter. As such it has:
- Two wheels
- An engine
- A floorboard the driver can stand on while using it
Article 5 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) specifically pertains to the operation of motorized scooters. Section 2135(c) of this article specifically pertains to helmet use. In this context, it mandates the use of a “properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet” that meets applicable standards by anyone under the age of 18.
Article 2, Section 22411 of the CVC existed long before the inception of E-scooters, and pertains broadly to “other speed laws.” It stipulates, “No person shall operate a motorized scooter at a speed in excess of 15 miles per hour.” This speed limit for e-scooters is also codified in Article 5, Section 21235(b) of the CVC.
As the latter stipulates, “the 15 mile per hour maximum speed limit for the operation of a motorized scooter specified in Section 22411 applies to the operation of a motorized scooter on all highways, including bikeways, regardless of a higher speed limit applicable to the highway.”
Use of E-scooters on bike paths
Under CVC Article 5, Section 21229 E-scooter riders must use available bike lanes, which may also be called bikeways, bike paths, or bicycle paths whenever possible.
Specifically, it calls for the use of E-scooters in “Class II” bicycle lanes. A bike lane with this designation is characterized by its location along the right side of a street and bordered by solid white lines on each side. In most cases it is also marked with a bicycle symbol within the borders. It only allows for riding in one direction.
This code section also details certain exceptions to the bike lane rule. An E-scooter operator can ride outside of an available bike lane:
- To pass another vehicle or pedestrian
- To make a left hand turn
- To avoid obstacles or hazards
- To make a right turn
Dismounting to make a left turn
The CVC also mandates how E-scooter operators must make left turns. Specifically, Section 21228(b) stipulates that any operator making a left turn must prepare to do so by stopping and getting off the scooter first. The operator must then push the scooter across the intersection when he or she has the right of way.
Additional E-Scooter traffic laws
Here are some additional rules set forth in Section 21235:
- Operation of an E-scooter without a driver’s license or learner’s permit is prohibited
- Giving someone else a ride on an E-Scooter is prohibited
- Riding an E-scooter on a sidewalk is prohibited for any purpose other than entering or leaving adjacent property
- Carrying anything while riding that impedes your ability to steer or otherwise maintain complete control of the scooter is prohibited
- Leaving the scooter on a sidewalk in any manner that creates an obstacle for pedestrians
Finally, Section 21221 of the CVC stipulates that anyone operating an E-scooter, “has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle” under applicable laws. In other words, anyone operating an E-scooter must obey the same rules as any other driver whenever possible. Anyone operating an E-scooter is also subject to the same punishments upon conviction for violation of those rules.
While these are state laws, local ordinances may also apply. Therefore, it is important to consult with a Los Angeles E-Scooter lawyer for help with any legal questions or concerns. To get started, contact the Los Angeles Law Office of Parag L. Amin P.C. to arrange a free consultation now.