If you are an avid electric scooter fan, then you probably already know that privately-owned electric scooters are only legal in some countries and certain regions of each country.
Electric scooters are street-legal in the US, but you cannot simply hop on one without knowing and following the rules of the road. Unfortunately, traffic laws for e-scooters are not as clear to riders as they should be.
It can all become confusing as electric scooter laws differ from state to state. They don’t require riders to pass an e-scooter specific DMV test; people can get away with riding them without particular knowledge of motorised scooter laws. In this article, we will try and clear some of the confusion.
In July 2019, Alabama legalized electric scooters at the state level (Ala. Code § 32-1-1.1), but left further development of ordinances to cities/local municipalities. While some Alabama cities tend to struggle with the existence of electric scooters, others are embracing the freedoms and conveniences the concept provides. Birmingham currently allows two bike- and scooter-share companies, Veo and Gotcha, to operate within the city. Riders must be 19 years old and have a driver’s license, and scooters are limited to a maximum speed of 15 mph. The city seems to have no statutes regulating privately-owned electric scooters, however, so riders might contact local law enforcement before taking to the streets and risking a ticket or fine. In Auburn and Tuscaloosa, scooters currently aren't street legal.
In Alaska, electric scooters are regulated as "motor driven cycles," which places them under the government division of motor vehicles. This requires them to have a power of less than 750W. If riders are 14 or 15, they will require an M2 permit, and those 16 or older will require either an M1 or M3 permit so long as they had a permit for 6 months prior to being licensed (similarly to getting licensed for cars).
Arizona passed laws (SB 1398) for electric scooters in April 2019 at the state level. They are treated very similarly to bikes, and an “electric standup scooter" is defined as less than 75 lbs in weight and 20 mph in top speed.
This means they can be ridden wherever a bike can (including sidewalks and excluding high speed roads) and that they do not require registration or insurance.
Arkansas passed the Electric Motorized Scooter Act in July, 2019, thus legalizing and regulating electric scooters. This law states that the scooters themselves must weigh less than 100 pounds and have a top speed of 20 mph or less, but riders are not permitted to ride faster than 15 mph. Riders must be at least 16 years old.
Arkansas also grants cities/localities the ability to regulate sharing programs, mandating that private fleet operating companies carry liability insurance and give local governments access to their rider data.
California legalized and regulated electric scooters through Vehicle Code § 21235 in Jan, 2019. Riders must have a valid driver's license, but do not need to register their scooter with the DMV. Electric scooters are not allowed to go over 15 MPH on any public road or bike lane, and they must stay on slower streets with speed limits of 25 MPH or lower. Scooters are not allowed on sidewalks. Helmets are required for riders under the age of 18.
California is both the birthplace of shared scooters (Bird in Santa Monica in Sept 2017) and the tension beginning in March 2018 with the San Francisco launches of Bird, Lime, and Spin without government permission—setting a trend for the shared scooter industry. The events of the following years ultimately gave scooters a bad reputation, while also familiarizing many hundreds of millions of people globally with the possibility and potential of lightweight electric vehicles.
Colorado permits electric scooters on streets with speed limits of 30mph or less. If this isn't an option, electric scooters may operate on the sidewalk, traveling at a speed of 6mph or less. Scooter riders must obey the same rules of the road as a bicycle, including “no ride/no parking areas."
Connecticut passed electric scooter laws in 2019, and they are very similar to bike laws. Helmets are required for riders under the age of 16. Scooters are not allowed on sidewalks and must not surpass a speed of 20 mph.
In Delaware, electric scooters are regulated in the same category as "motorized skateboards" and are not allowed on "highways, streets, or sidewalks," according to Delaware’s Title 21 Ch. 41 Sc 12 Provision 4198N. This generally means that the more high-traffic the road, the more likely you are to run into trouble. Not all laws are enforced, especially in emerging legal gray areas, so you will have to use your discretion as well as seek to understand your specific local situation. Helmets must be worn by riders under the age of 16.
District of Columbia / Washington D.C.
In October 2020, DC passed new legislation to regulate and define electric scooters. DC law 50–2201.02 defines scooters as a “personal mobility device” or “PMD”—"a motorized propulsion device designed to transport one person or a self-balancing, two non-tandem wheeled device [i.e. a Segway], designed to transport only one person…but does not include a battery-operated wheelchair.
50–2201.04a states that scooters are not considered motor vehicles (i.e. cars and motorcycles) under DC law, so a license, registration, and insurance are not required. There is, however, a minimum rider age of 16. Helmets are not required, and scooters cannot be ridden on sidewalks in the central business district. Although no US state has a speed limit lower than 15 mph, DC currently has a speed limit of 10 mph. This regulation was created with shared scooters in mind, but at the moment still affects privately-owned scooters. Another regulation unique to DC is that riders cannot wear headphones.
Regulations that only affect shared scooters include helmets for those under 18 and all vehicles being locked to racks or poles.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis legalized statewide electric scooter use in 2019. Riders must be 16 years old, but are not required to have a driver's license. Scooters are permitted to operate in bike lanes and must follow road rules pertaining to bikes as well. The bill allowed individual cities to regulate scooter programs, but personal scooter ownership cannot be bound by individual cities' decisions. Scooters must not exceed a maximum speed of 30 mph, although attorney Matt Dolman notes that, "Florida law basically gives scooters that cannot exceed 15 miles per hour [in particular] the same status as bicycles."
The state of Georgia allows its residents to operate electric scooters on bike paths and bike lanes, and on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less if these are not available. Scooters cannot be ridden on the sidewalk. Scooters must weigh less than 100 pounds and have a maximum speed of 20 mph.
Beyond this, Georgia has stated that it will leave more specific electric scooter laws to cities/localities, saying “[we don't] want to overregulate the industry...we want to encourage more development of this kind of technology.”
In 2021, Hawaii passed House Bill 72, designating electric scooters as vehicles allowed on roadways, bike paths, and sidewalks. Riders must be over the age of 15 and wear a helmet under the age of 16. Scooters must be equipped with lights for use at night, weigh less than 75 pounds, and not exceed speeds of 15 mph.
Hawaii State Sen. Chris Lee, who chairs the state legislature’s Transportation Committee, forecasts new infrastructure in cities like Waikiki to make electric scooter riders safer on the roads. “We have hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for infrastructure upgrades,” he says. “So, we want to push the city, we want to push the state… to build these safer ways for people to get around without having to ride next to cars, without pedestrians having to dodge and focus on scooters.”
Boise and the state of Idaho don't require helmets for electric scooters or bicyclists. In Boise, they are allowed on streets, sidewalks, and the Greenbelt. Despite the city of Boise's clearly outlined rules, the state of Idaho does not have legislation specifically concerning the use of electric scooters. State law classifies e-scooters along with various “motorized toys” and prohibits them from public sidewalks and roadways except where local law enforcement allows.
Illinois introduced bill HB1590 in 2019, naming "low speed electric scooters" as its own class of vehicle which shall abide by the same rules of the road as bicycles. Riders under the age of 17 must have a valid driver's license to ride, and scooters must have front and rear lights to ride at night. The bill has yet to be signed into law, which means that scooters are technically unregulated at the state level at the present time.
Indiana enacted new legislation that specifically addresses electric scooters in July 2019. The law outlines that scooters must weigh less than 100 pounds and have a maximum speed of 20 mph. E-scooters that meet these criteria have all the same rights and responsibilities as a bicycle. You can ride them in the street and on bike paths, and you don't need insurance or a license to ride one. They're also not legally considered motor vehicles (i.e. cars/motorcycles/etc).
House Bill 500, put into law to update the 2019 Iowa Code section 321.1, amends the laws relating to e-scooters. The bill authorizes a person to operate an electric scooter on highways with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, bikeways, and sidewalks. They can be parked anywhere that bikes are parked, as long as they are not impeding the pedestrian right of way. Since they share many regulations applied to bicycles, there is no requirement for license or insurance. E-scooters must have a white front light and a rear red light. Alternatively, a red rear reflector can be used in lieu of rear red light.
Kansas has legalized electric scooters at the state level on roadways. Riders may not operate bikes or electric scooters on sidewalks or highways. Helmets are not required. Only riders with valid driver’s licenses may operate electric scooters, and scooters must be equipped with front and rear lights at night.
In March 2019, House Bill 258 was signed into Kentucky law. It sets operating standards for electric scooters and allows them to operate like bicycles on public streets. This means you are not required to register them with the state, purchase insurance, or hold a driver’s license. E-scooters may be operated by a person 16 years of age and older. By law, an e-scooter must be equipped with a front white light and a rear red light to maximize visibility.
Louisiana legalized electric scooters at the state-level in 2019. According to the DMV, Louisiana allows electric, low-speed scooters to operate on sidewalks, bicycle paths, and streets with posted speed limits of 25 mph or less. Only one person is allowed on the scooter at a time. Helmets must be worn by those under the age of 17.
Electric scooters are legal in Maine at the state level. However, the specific laws applied to electric scooters have been re-applied from other classifications, such as mopeds.
Electric scooters are not permitted to be operated faster than 20 mph. When riding at night, a scooter must be equipped with a front white light and a red or amber rear light, as well as reflectors. Wheels must not exceed 10" in diameter and maximum power is capped at 750 watts. A license is required, but every class will suffice.
In 2019, Maryland’s state legislature legalized electric scooters and passed a bill (SB770), designating stand-up scooters as their own class of vehicle. The bill established that an electric low-speed scooter is considered to be a bicycle for the purposes of the Maryland Vehicle Law. Scooters must have a maximum speed of 20 mph.
Electric scooters are legal in Massachusetts at the state level. In absence of fner regulation, they are grouped with motorized scooters (i.e. mopeds). This requires electric scooter riders to wear a helmet, yield to pedestrians, and provide an audible signal when passing. A driver's license is required, and they are allowed a max speed of 20 mph.
Electric scooters were made legal in Michigan under Section 257.660 and classified in the same category as electric skateboards. They can only transport one person at a time, and they cannot have a motor greater than 2,500W (electric scooters are typically 250-500W) or max speed greater than 25 mph. Scooters are only allowed on streets with speed limits of less than 25 mph. Scooters may not pass other vehicles between lanes of traffic, and they require a white front light visible from 500 feet away and a rear reflector visible from 600 feet away.
Electric scooters are legal in Minnesota and are categorized as "motorized foot scooters," on which riders can stand or sit. Scooters should have handlebars, be powered by an electric motor or internal combustion engine, have wheels no larger than 12 inches in diameter, and have a max speed of no more than 15 mph. Riders must be at least 12 years old, and helmets are required for those under the age of 18.
Riding on sidewalks is not allowed. An electric scooter must be equipped with a headlight and tail light for visibility in low-light conditions. Scooters are allowed on bike paths and trails that are not reserved for the exclusive use of non-motorized traffic, but local authorities can enact specific regulations.
Mississippi has no statewide laws regarding electric scooters, so jurisdiction goes to the cities and local municipalities. A bill (HB1410) was introduced in 2020, but the bill failed to pass. Despite this, shared scooter company Blue Duck began a small pilot in Vicksburg in late 2020.
Electric scooters are legal in Missouri and are regulated as "motorized bicycles," says the Missouri State Highway Patrol. They can be operated in the street or in bike lanes where available. A driver's license is required, and if a scooter is to go above 30 mph, it will be regulated as a motorcycle instead.
Electric scooters are legal in Montana and regulated as "motorized bicycles." Adult electric scooter riders are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. Pedestrians always have the right away. Electric scooter riders must give a verbal warning if they are going to pass, and must always obey the traffic signals.
Nebraska has not enacted electric scooter regulation at the state-level, and the Nebraska DMV expressly states that scooters do not need to be registered. When operating electric scooters on streets, riders must abide by the rules of the road. Riding on the sidewalk is prohibited.
Electric scooters are legal in Nevada by AB485. Scooters must not weigh more than 100 pounds without a rider and must not exceed a max speed of 20 miles per hour. Riders must be at least 16 years old.
New Hampshire does not have state-wide laws for electric scooters. Some individual cities have passed their own regulation such as Portsmouth and Nashua, but these specifically concern the use and operation of shared fleet scooters like Bird or Spin.
In May 2019, New Jersey legalized electric scooters (N.J. Stat. § 39:4-14.16), categorizing them as “low speed electric scooters," specifically. They must not exceed a max speed of 19 miles per hour. Scooters are bound by the same rules of the road as bicycles. The decision of whether e-scooters can be driven on sidewalks and trails is left to the cities and municipalities. A driver’s license is not needed to ride a scooter, and neither is insurance nor vehicle registration.
New Mexico does not have any statewide laws regarding electric scooters and has largely left it to cities and local municipalities. In January 2019, the New Mexico Legislature introduced H.B. 292, which introduced the regulatory framework of “electric foot scooters” at the state level, but no further action has been taken. There was a shared scooter pilot program in Albuquerque that ran from May 2019 to May 2020 that was quite popular, but there have not been any developments since then.
The state of New York legalized scooters in August 2020, a monumental step for micromobility and the future of cities. Roughly 50% of car trips in the U.S. are under 3 miles, and in New York, trips are especially short and urban. Before this event, New York was one of the most famous global examples of both unregulated micromobility (in the case of personally-owned scooters) and banned micromobility (in the case of shared scooter companies).
At the state level, riders must be at least 16 years old, must wear helmets if under the age of 18, must stay off sidewalks, and must stay off streets of posted speed limits higher than 30 mph.
Cities and municipalities have the right to either override these laws (which is not expected) or extend them. The most notable by far—New York City—passed regulation in November 2020 to apply to the five boroughs and also finally opened its permit process for five private companies to operate shared scooters starting March 2021.
In NYC, scooters are not to exceed 20 miles per hour and must stay on streets with speed limits of 25 mph or less. Helmets are required for riders under 16. Despite being very late to legalize scooters, New York City was also well-known for not enforcing or penalizing those who regularly rode personal electric scooters.
Electric scooters are vehicles under North Carolina Law, meaning they must be registered with the DMV and riders must have a valid driver’s license. Scooters can only be ridden on streets that have a speed limit of 25 mph or less.
There are no laws in North Dakota specifically regulating electric scooters, but they are bound by the existing legislation for “motorized scooters” (i.e. mopeds). Electric scooter riders are required to stay off sidewalks and bike paths. Electric scooters must have brakes, a headlight, and taillight. Riders must wear a helmet if under the age of 18.
Ohio passed H.B. 295 in January, 2021, which legalizes and regulates electric scooters as "low-speed micromobility devices." Scooters must not exceed 20 mph or 100 lbs in weight. They are exempt from licensing and registration requirements. They are permitted on public roads, but must yield to pedestrians and have front and rear lights at night. The minimum rider age is 16.
There are no statewide laws in Oklahoma regarding electric scooters, so regulation has been left to individual cities. There are sharing programs in Norman, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Stillwater. Under Oklahoma City ordinance, for example, scooters are allowed in bike lanes and roads with a 35 mph speed limit. Another ordinance prohibits anyone under 18 from operating or riding a motor scooter without a helmet.
Oregon has passed regulations specific to electric scooters and they are currently regulated as mopeds by Or. Rev. Stat. § 801.348. Portland, the largest city in Oregon, does not permit scooters on sidewalks and requires that riders be at least 16 years old and not exceed 15 miles per hour. Instead of passing statewide legislation for electric scooters. Statewide, scooters can have motors with no more than 1000 watts, must have lights at night for visibility, and can go no faster than 24 mph.
Electric scooters are currently unregulated at the state level in Pennsylvania, though the proposed Senate Bill 892 would regulate "Electric Low Speed Scooters." These are defined in the bill as "small electric- or human-powered vehicles [that] weigh less than 100 pounds and go no more than 15 miles per hour." The Bill would "allow certain municipalities to designate where low-speed scooters could be used, though they would be prohibited on any roadways with a posted speed limit of at least 35 miles per hour."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49), calls it an effort to prevent the state from "falling further behind other places that have already embraced low-speed scooters" as a viable transportation option that helps "relieve traffic congestion, pollution and stress by reducing car trips and increasing access to public transit.... Low-speed scooters are part of the next generation of transportation." The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee by a vote of 12-2 but has seen no movement since.
In Pittsburgh, a two-year pilot program was launched in 2021 to regulate electric scooters under Department of Mobility and Infrastructure Order No. 21-0001. The program allows e-scooters on a "designated shared use pathway, or right-most general purpose travel lane of low-speed roadway." It does not allow scooters on sidewalks or on roads with posted speed limits above 25mph. Scooters are limited to maximum speeds of 15mph.
Rhode Island does not have statewide legislation addressing electric scooters, and pilot programs for scooter sharing are being handled by cities. The city of Providence requires a valid driver's license or municipal ID. Scooters can be ridden on sidewalks or streets, and riders are encouraged to go slow and wear a helmet. On the street, riders are required to follow all rules of the road and obey traffic regulations.
South Carolina has no statewide laws pertaining to electric scooters, but it does allow cities to self-regulate scooter sharing programs. Both Charleston and Columbia banned electric scooters in 2018 and 2019 respectively, with no further developments since then. It is not clear where e-scooters fit into the state’s motor vehicle codes. For now, the laws surrounding gas powered mopeds are the closest thing we have to understanding what is and isn’t legal as far as scooters go.
Scooters are legal at the state level in South Dakota. A new legal definition and provisions for "motorized foot scooters" came about as a result of House Bill 1084 passing through South Dakota Legislature March 2022. An e-scooter is defined as having handlebars and either a platform to stand on or a seat. The maximum diameter for both wheels is twelve inches or smaller, scooters have a motor capable of a maximum speed of 15 mph. E-scooters are now distinct from electric bicycles. Electric scooters are permitted on sidewalks in South Dakota.
Tennessee passed legislation legalizing and regulating electric scooters in July 2019 (Tenn. Code § 55-8- 302). The law grouped defined e-scooters as “a device weighing less than 100 pounds, with handlebars and an electric motor ... whose maximum speed is 20 miles per hour.” Scooters must have brakes and front lights and rear lights or reflectors. Scooters cannot be ridden on sidewalks unless a city or local municipality allows it.
In Texas, there are no electric scooter specific laws, and thus they are bound by existing DMV rules for "motor-assisted scooters” (i.e. mopeds) by Texas Transp. Code § 551.351. This law does not permit scooters to be ridden on roads with a speed limit greater than 35 mph and limits power to 750W. Electric scooters are exempt from safety inspection, license, registration and insurance requirements. Texas is relatively unlikely to regulate scooters at the state level, leaving them largely unregulated and leaving cities and local municipalities to decide regulations for themselves. Many Texas cities and colleges have scooter sharing programs, so a large amount of Texans are familiar with electric scooters.
Utah enacted a law in May 2019 to legalize and regulate electric scooters, which are effectively treated as bikes. This exempts scooters from motor vehicle requirements like licensing and registration. Scooters must be equipped with a white front light and rear read light or reflector. They can be ridden anywhere that bikes can, which means only on roads with a speed limit of 25 mph or less. Riders must not exceed 15 mph. Anyone under 15 years old must be under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian.
Vermont has no state-wide electric scooter laws, but has some regulation in place on the city level that is more focused on shared scooters (for example a 15 mph limit in Burlington). Scooters and electric bicycles are treated as vehicles and therefore must ride on roadways and not sidewalks.
Virginia passed dedicated e-scooter legislation (§ 46.2-908) in July, 2020. It states that scooters must weigh less than 100 pounds, have a top speed of 20 mph, and it sets a minimum age of 14 and blocks use on highways, says Virginia source. The law also permits counties and cities to regulate or ban micromobility vehicles via local ordinances.
Washington passed scooter legislation in May, 2019 that legalized scooters, calling them "motorized foot scooters," specifically. Washington Rev. Code § 46.20.500 clearly outlines a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour in either streets or bike lanes. Reflectors are required at night. Those under 16 may not ride unless a local jurisdiction expressly allows it, and sidewalk-riding will also be determined on a city-by-city basis. The state code also alludes to slower speed standards potentially being set for sidewalk riding.
West Virginia does not have any laws regarding electric scooters, but they did pass a bill in 2020 to regulate e-bikes. It is safe to assume that these regulations may extend to scooters in the near future. This new law exempted e-bikes from license, registration, and insurance requirements. It also states that e-bikes must follow the same rules of the road as bicycles, and states that riders under 15 must wear helmets.
In July 2019, the Wisconsin state assembly signed off on a bill to regulate electric scooters on roads and sidewalks. Scooters must not exceed a speed of 20 mph or weight of 100 lbs. Scooters are not allowed on sidewalks except in certain circumstances, and riders are bound to the same rules of the road as bikes. The bill also permits local governments to regulate shared scooter operators and set their own rules on scooters within their jurisdiction.
Wyoming has no specific electric scooter laws, but the state did pass a law in 2019 that grants e-bikes the same privileges as traditional bicycles and defines a few different types of lightweight personal vehicles. Wyoming NO. SF0081 has a section regarding scooters, but it can be easily inferred that it is referring to mopeds. The law states that e-bikes and electric skateboards are exempt from licensing and registration requirements. Electric scooters are regulated as electric skateboards under this law, and share the same privileges granted to e-bikes.