Eco-friendly, easy to use, and proven to improve the mental health of their riders, electric scooters are rightfully taking their place in the modern world as a popular mode of commuter transport. As with any new vehicle coming to the consumer market, however, there have been some bumps in the road along the way. While the number of e-scooter riders has skyrocketed over the last few years, the law in North America has sometimes been slow to catch up.
While most areas of the US now have proper legislation for electric scooters in place, the laws on what qualifies as a legal road scooter and where you can ride it vary from state to state and city to city. In general, these laws include variations on e-scooters being limited in speed to around 20 mph, confined to streets with similarly low speed limits, and forbidden from certain zones and pathways such as sidewalks. However, every city region has its guidelines, so if you’re a new rider considering an e-scooter commute or an experienced veteran moving to a new town, you should consult this list first to find out exactly what you need to know before you get going.
As North American cities go, New York is pretty up to speed on its e-scooter regulations. The guidelines are clear and simple, too. E-scooters are legal in New York City, so long as they do not surpass a 15 mph speed limit, and riders must be over the age of 16. Helmets are strongly recommended and required for riders under the age of 18. E-scooters are allowed in bike lanes and on streets with a speed limit below 30 mph. The only thing you mustn’t do is ride your E-scooter on the sidewalk, as you’d run the risk of disrupting pedestrians and causing an accident.
San Francisco updated their e-scooter regulations in 2018, and they’re pretty clear-cut too. First off, all riders must have either a valid driver’s license or a learner’s permit. If under the age of 18, riders must wear a helmet, whereas adults can opt out at their own risk. No passengers are allowed on e-scooters, even for short rides, and scooters must stick to roads with a 25 mph speed limit or below. Your scooter itself can’t surpass 15 mph, and if there are bike lanes available, you’re required to use them unless you’re overtaking or avoiding an obstacle. Plus, if you park up your scooter on the sidewalk, you have to make sure it’s not blocking any foot traffic, or it’s liable to be moved, and you could receive a fine.
Unfortunately, Boston is running a little behind in terms of e-scooter regulations, in that the state of Massachusetts still doesn’t have specific statutes that apply to them. Instead, the laws for motorized scooters are applied to all-electric scooters, too, even though they’re entirely different vehicles. Still, though the regulations are likely to change in the near future, they are as follows.
First off, you’ll need a driver’s license or learner’s permit to ride, as in some other states. You’re limited to 20 mph when riding, and you can use any roadways aside from express highways. You must follow traffic laws as if you were in a road vehicle and keep to the right-hand side of the road at all times. One key rule to note is that you must have brake lights and turn signals, which not all-electric scooters do. You’re also not allowed to ride between sunset and sunrise, and all riders must wear a helmet. These laws may seem a little draconian, but as noted, they’re very likely to be updated soon with some rider-friendly adjustments, so keep your eyes peeled.
In Miami, the rules for e-scooters have recently been updated as part of the city’s scooter partner program, which aims to create a safe environment for riders and pedestrians alike. First off, riders must be over the age of 18 and hold a valid driver’s license, ID, or passport to ride. Minors are strictly banned from riding e-scooters, and only one rider can be on a scooter at once.
Helmets are strongly recommended, and all scooters operate to a strict 15 mph speed limit, while a 10 mph speed limit applies to Biscayne Boulevard, from Chopin Plaza to NE 11th Street. Scooters are legal to ride in all other District 2 areas, but not in the rest of Miami, so you’re limited to Coconut Grove, Brickell, Downtown, Edgewater, Morningside, and Wynwood only. If you’re leaving your scooter parked up, you have to make sure you’re not blocking entrances, utilities, or window displays, and you’re not allowed to park up on grass either. Plus, if you’re parking on the sidewalk, you need to leave a minimum of 6 feet of space on one side of your scooter to ensure that pedestrians, pushchairs, and wheelchairs can get past.
When it comes to riding e-scooters in Las Vegas, things get a little spotty. In general, the laws of Nevada apply, but there are some local ordinances in place, such as not being allowed to ride your scooter on the sidewalk. It’s also not recommended to ride your scooter in busy areas like the strip, as you’re liable to cause yourself or someone else injury.
In terms of Nevada law, your scooter must be limited to 20 mph, and you do not require a license for riding, though you must be over the age of 16 in order to do so. You can park your scooter wherever you like on the sidewalk, so long as you don’t impede the movement of pedestrians, and it’s recommended that you wear a helmet while riding.
Seattle’s electric scooter laws are generally a mixed bag. First off, helmets are required, and you can only ride on streets with a speed limit below 25 mph. You’re prohibited from riding in bus lanes, on sidewalks and required to ride in bike lanes/trails when they’re available to you.
The city has an official rideshare scheme with several scooter operators involved, and the rules for these apply to riders who own their scooters too.
If you’re riding a rented scooter, you’ll soon discover there are some no-ride zones around the city, as your scooter will slow down to a complete stop in these areas. Private scooters can evade this issue just fine, but you may be fined if caught riding in a no-ride zone. If riding through a park, you have to stick to multi-use trails and roads and evade pathways and sidewalks. And when you’re parking up, make sure to park at a scooter rack, corral, or near the curb at the very least, and avoid blocking building entrances.
Chicago is another city where e-scooter laws aren’t very clear. This is because the city is currently embroiled in a bit of a fiasco over how strict such ordinances should be. So there’ll probably be some clearer regulations brought into play within the next year or so. For now, Chicago follows mostly the same rules as Illinois on the whole. Scooters with 150cc motors or above require a motorcycle license, while those below do not. Scooters must obey all the signs, signals, and traffic laws that apply to bicycles. Headlights are required for riding at night, and brake lights are required too.
In general, however, the rules in Chicago are so spotty that you probably won’t have trouble so long as you ride only on the road and avoid sidewalks altogether. However, keep an eye on local laws, as new ordinances are likely to come into effect sometime during 2022.
Electric scooter laws in Denver are similarly obscure but pretty simple if you boil them down. Basically, you can’t ride your scooter on the sidewalk, barring one specific situation, and you can’t carry more than one person. You can only ride on roads with a speed limit under 30 mph, and if you turn onto one with no bike lane, then you are permitted, on such roads only, to ride on the sidewalk.
Scooters are completely banned along the 16th Street Mall, and you’re requested not to ride them in parks, around the Auraria campus, Mile High Stadium, and any RTD bus/light rail stops. Aside from this, follow the rules of the road, and you won’t have any trouble with the law.
Unfortunately, electric scooters are effectively banned in Philadelphia, though they’re still a common enough sight on the city’s streets regardless of their illegality. For now, electric scooters are not allowed to operate in most of Pennsylvania, as most fail to meet FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) required to allow them on the road. PA Vehicle Code throws an extra spanner in the works, disallowing scooters because they can’t match the speeds of other road vehicles.
Ultimately, this hasn’t stopped many riders in Philadelphia from adopting e-scooters regardless, and with new bills on regulations on the way, things are likely to change in favour of riders soon enough. Still, for the time being, it’s theoretically illegal to ride e-scooters in Philly, even if fines are not enforced, so if you opt to do so, it’s at your own risk.
In San Diego, you must follow California’s state-wide e-scooter laws, as well as some other local regulations. A driver’s license or learner’s permit is required, as well as a helmet, and you need to keep to a 15 mph speed limit. You’re not allowed to ride on streets with speed limits over 25 mph, and while you’re allowed to ride on the road, you must stick as close to the curb as possible. Riding on bike paths is fine, too.
In terms of what you’re not allowed to do, you must not ride with more than one person on the scooter, those under 16 are not permitted to ride, and you must also refrain from blocking the sidewalk or accessways when you park your scooter. E-scooters are also banned on the city’s boardwalks, including along the public walkway on Ocean Front Walk in Mission Beach.
In Austin, electric scooter laws are similar to those used for bikes, meaning e-scooter riders have plenty of freedom within the city. Certain sidewalks are alright to ride on, while a list of banned routes is easily accessible via the local government website. In general, you can ride your e-scooter in bike lanes and on certain roads, excluding those with speed limits over 35 mph. You can only have one rider per scooter, and you must follow all local traffic laws, while riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. Park with care, leaving plenty of room on the sidewalk for pedestrians to pass by, and if you’re riding at night, make sure you have a headlight, plus a taillight or reflector.
Thankfully, Los Angeles fully legalized e-scooters a couple of years ago, so their regulations are easy to understand and relatively rider-friendly. Technically, a valid license or learner’s permit is required, so make sure you have one before you consider buying a scooter. There’s a 15 mph speed limit for all riders, and you’re only allowed to ride on roads with a speed limit of 25 mph or below. The bike lane is fine to use, and the sidewalk is strictly off-limits. You’re required to wear a helmet when riding, and when parking, you must stick to the outer edge of the sidewalk only.
Most bike trails and shared-use paths in parks are okay to use, but check the guidelines for individual parks as the rules vary across the city.
While e-scooters have recently been booted off sidewalks in Houston, they’re still perfectly legal to ride in the street. They can be ridden on any street with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, and they’re allowed in bike lanes, but not on sidewalks, as noted. Helmets are not required, nor is a driver’s license, though the former is recommended.
Phoenix’s electric scooter laws are virtually non-existent, and so your best bet is to follow Arizona’s state-wide laws when riding in the city. Within Arizona, e-scooters are essentially classed as bicycles, and as such, you can ride them wherever you can ride a bike, including in bike lanes and through parks. You’re not allowed to ride on roads with a speed limit over 25 mph, and in some areas, sidewalks are prohibited too. You do not need a license, nor insurance, to ride your e-scooter in Phoenix, and you do not need to wear a helmet, though it’s recommended that you do so.
As with other Texan cities, San Antonio has no license or registration requirements for e-scooter riders. However, your scooter must not exceed 750W in power, and you can only ride it on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. You must be 16 or older to ride, and passengers are prohibited, and so is riding on the sidewalk in most cases. The only exception is when there is no bike lane on a road with a speed limit above 35 mph, in which case you can use the sidewalk cautiously.
You must use bike lanes when possible, however, and always yield to pedestrians. Riding on trails, creek ways, and through plazas and parks is banned, and so is the use of a cell phone at all times.
After some controversy surrounding their usage, rental e-scooters were banned in Dallas in the fall of 2020, but they could be making a comeback soon. While various scooter companies are in talks with Dallas city officials, private scooter usage is a different kettle of fish, and no matter how much research you do, you may still find yourself asking, can I ride my electric scooter in Dallas at all?
Theoretically, you are allowed to be on roads under 35 mph under Texan law, so long as your scooter doesn’t exceed 750W. Still, with the law so unclear in so many Texan cities, you may still run into trouble with the police, even if you do your due diligence. It’s always worth sending an email to your local authority to find out the most recent rule changes and to obtain written proof of permission to ride. And otherwise, your best bet is to wait for some new ordinances to come into effect.
The rules for riding e-scooters in San Jose are a little clearer and generally match those of California at large. That means you must not ride on the sidewalk, you must follow the rules of the road, and you should park responsibly at the end of your ride. You must possess a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit in order to ride, and you are not permitted to carry passengers. You’re also asked to yield to pedestrians, and it’s recommended that you wear a helmet to keep yourself safe.
While e-scooters were legalized in Florida state-wide in 2019, the rules per city are still a little up in the air. In general, to abide by Florida law, you simply need to be at least 16 years of age and keep your scooter below 30 mph. Most cities impose a 15 mph limit on top of this. While Jacksonville, in particular, is somewhat loose on legislation, it’s recommended you stick to bike lanes and streets under 30 mph and avoid sidewalks completely. If your scooter has a fixed speed limit of 15 mph or below, you can ride anywhere a bicycle can go, as in the eyes of the law, you’re basically on a bike.
Fort Worth is another city that has remained tight-lipped on electric scooter legislation, so it’s once again best to follow Texas’ overall guidelines. That means sticking to roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or below and using a scooter with a motor of 750W or less. Ride at 18 mph or below, in accordance with local guidelines, and keep off trails and sidewalks. If in doubt, contact your local authority for more information on riding in specific zones, as city officials constantly consider new legislation on e-scooters.
Since January 2021, Columbus has had quite specific regulations in place in regard to electric scooters. First off, if you’re renting a scooter, you’ll need to be 16 years or older. All scooters, private or rented, must be equipped with lamps and reflectors at night and not exceed a speed limit of 20 mph. You must yield to pedestrians, and riding on the sidewalk is specifically banned. There are also some areas where riding is prohibited altogether, including High St. in the Short North Arts District.
Indianapolis’s electric scooter laws are rather robust, thanks to the city’s friendly relationship with several rideshare companies. No license is required to ride, as scooters under 100 lb and 20 mph maximum speed are essentially considered bicycles. Any scooter that surpasses those limits is not street-legal, so it’s best to consult the law before you buy in this case.
In terms of riding, you’ll need to wear a helmet and follow the rules of the road, and you’re not allowed on sidewalks or on public trails, including the Cultural Trail and the Monon Trail. You’re asked to stick to bike lanes where possible, and when parking, you must not block bus stops, ramps, entrances, or exit ways. Other than that, you’re free to ride as you please!
Charlotte has somewhat stricter rules on electric scooter usage in that private riders must register their vehicle with the DMV and possess a valid driver’s license to ride. Your speed limit is locked at 15 mph too, and Uptown, as bounded by Church St., Stonewall St., College St., and 7th St., is off-limits.
Rental scooters are a little easier to use in the city, as you only require a license to ride them and to be age 18 or older. The 15 mph speed limit still applies, as do the Uptown boundary regulations. Helmets are recommended but not required, and whether you’re riding on a private or rental scooter, you must park responsibly, without blocking exits, entrances, bus stops, or pedestrian thoroughfares.
The laws for riding electric scooters in Washington D.C. have some key dissimilarities to those in other US cities, mainly the need to lock rented scooters to elements of public infrastructure. This weird rule, which only applies to rented and rideshare scooters, requires you to lock them to a bike rack, scooter corral, parking sign, or stop sign when not in use, using the lock provided by the rideshare company itself. You may not lock your rented scooter to bus stops or trash cans, however.
Aside from this odd stipulation for shared scooters, there are a couple of laws that apply to private scooters too. You can ride your private electric scooter on D.C.’s roads, bike lanes, and sidewalks, but not on major bridges or highways. The only area where this differs is in the Central Business District, where you’re not to ride on sidewalks at all, else you’ll be subject to a $25 fine. Neither private nor rented electric scooters require a license or registration, though the rider must be aged 16 or above. Helmets are not required on private scooters, but they are on rented scooters, and both are subject to a fairly strict speed limit of 10 mph – as well as a unique ‘no headphones’ rule.
Riding an electric scooter in Nashville is relatively hassle-free, once again thanks to the city’s good relationship with e-scooter rideshare firms. For any and all scooters, including private scooters, Tennessee’s national laws apply. That means your scooter must be under 100 lb in weight and have a maximum speed of 20 mph. Brakes, front lights, and reflectors are also required as standard.
If you’re renting a scooter in Nashville, you’ll need to be 18 years of age or older and possess a valid driver’s license. Each scooter is one rider per vehicle, and all scooters are banned from being used on sidewalks in business districts, including Downtown, Gallatin Pike, and East Nashville. You should avoid sidewalks generally anyway and obey the rules of the road as if you were on a bike, yielding to pedestrians and signalling before turns. Last but not least, leave plenty of room when parking, as you must not block any public rights of way.
Oklahoma has no state-wide laws concerning electric scooters, and as such, it’s up to each city to decide on regulations for them. In Oklahoma City, e-scooters are permitted to be used on bike lanes and roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, but not on sidewalks. You’re also not allowed to ride on public trails, and you must follow traffic rules and yield to pedestrians. Minors must wear a helmet when riding, and all riders must ensure they park close to a curb or bike rack, not to interfere with pedestrians.
Electric scooter laws in Detroit are well-defined thanks to an early piece of legislation made in 2018, which essentially equates them with electric skateboards for the purpose of law enforcement. That means under 19s must wear a helmet when riding, and under 12s can’t ride them on the street. Aside from that, anybody can ride without a license or registration, so long as you stick to the right-hand side of the road and follow local traffic laws. Privately owned scooters must be equipped with a white front light and a reflector, and you must only ride on roads with a speed limit of 25 mph or less, sticking to that speed limit yourself, of course. One small thing to mention is that e-scooters can’t be ridden on the Riverwalk, as motorized vehicles are prohibited along several stretches of the waterfront.
There are no state-wide regulations for electric scooters in Oregon, and therefore you can rely solely on Portland’s city region guidance when riding there. The local authorities classify them as mopeds, meaning you must ride on the road and not on the sidewalk and abide by a 15 mph speed limit. You must be at least 16 to ride, and a helmet is required by law. You must yield to pedestrians, and riding in parks is generally prohibited. However, you may use multi-use trails, including but not limited to Waterfront River Trail, Eastbank Esplanade, and Springwater Corridor.
Baltimore is another great example of a scooter-conscious city with good laws in place to protect them, especially considering they’re one of the few cities to direct cars to give scooters 3 feet of space when passing. In order to ride a scooter yourself, it needs to be limited to a 20 mph top speed, and you must only ride in bike lanes or on roads, with the usual exception; if you’re on a road with a speed limit of 30 mph or above you may ride carefully on the sidewalk, though in general, you ought to walk your scooter if doing so.
If you’re under 16, it’s compulsory to wear a helmet, and those older than 16 are recommended to do so anyway. You must park considerately on the curb, without blocking the road or the pedestrian thoroughfare, and when riding, you should always yield to pedestrians and follow traffic laws.
Sacramento has no specific ordinances on scooters, so California state law applies to riders of both rented and private vehicles there. That means you’ll need a driver’s license to ride, and if you’re under 18, helmets are compulsory. You need to stick to a 15 mph speed limit and only ride on streets with 25 mph or less speed limits. Stay off the sidewalks, and stick to bike lanes if possible. However, keep your eyes peeled as the city is currently considering new legislation to improve e-scooter safety across the board.
Atlanta has a pretty balanced policy regarding e-scooter regulation, largely following Georgia’s state-wide guidelines. E-scooters can be ridden in Atlanta on any bike path, bike lane, or roadway where the speed limit is 35 mph or less, and they do not require a license to ride. The scooter itself must weigh a maximum of 100 lb and have a max speed of 20 mph. You can’t ride on the sidewalk in Georgia, and while there’s no minimum age to ride, those under 16 must wear a helmet.
Other than that, riders in Atlanta must follow basic traffic rules and park courteously. This means parking by the curb, leaving plenty of room for pedestrians, and avoiding grates, vegetation, and shared paths. You also need to park your scooter upright. All in all, if you follow Georgia’s basic state-wide rules, you’ll have no trouble.