The best electric scooters are not only popular with children and teens, in fact, they’ve recently become popular with adults as well, especially those who are looking for a new way to commute to and from work. Some models of electric scooters are advertised as vehicles, which is part of the appeal. Even models that are advertised as vehicles don’t require registration or a license. But does that mean they can be used on the highway? What laws apply to scooters labeled as street legal? Are electric scooters legal in every state? This can actually vary from state to state, so we’ll delve a little deeper into the laws involving electric scooter use and the type of restrictions you can expect in your state.
Street Legal Scooters
This term refers to scooters that can be ridden on the street legally because it meets all of the state requirements in terms of safety. This usually means that the scooter is equipped with the proper signal lights, lighting, and other types of safety equipment that’s compliant with specific safety standards.
Unfortunately, determining whether or not you’re required to obtain a license in order to operate your electric scooter on the road isn’t as simple as most people would like.
Federal law classifies electric bikes as two or three wheeled vehicles that are equipped with pedals that are fully operable and feature a top speed that’s under twenty miles per hour when powered solely by a motor. It should also have a motor that produces under 1.01 horsepower. If a scooter falls into this category, it’s then considered street legal and doesn’t require registration or a special license in most states. In order to fit within these guidelines, some major brands have added pedals to their electric scooter design on models that look more like Vespas. But this not only looks out of place, it can make pedaling incredibly difficult.
Electric Scooter Requirements Vary by State
California: In this state, electric scooters are recognized as a two-wheeled device that has a deck and handlebars, is powered by an electric motor and is designed to be stood upon when riding. Electric scooters aren’t defined as motor vehicles, so they don’t have to be registered or insured.
These scooters can be used on bike paths or trails. However, if a local authority or local agency has jurisdiction over a path or trail, it’s fully in their right to prohibit you from operating an electric scooter in these places. Electric scooters can also not be ridden on the sidewalk. To operate, the rider must be at least sixteen years old, wear a bike helmet and meet safety standards that are regulated by the state.
Electric scooters can be used on roads that don’t have bike lanes, just as long as the speed limit for those particular streets isn’t higher than twenty-five miles per hour. Unless you’re passing or turning left, the electric scooter has to be ridden close to the right-hand curb.
New York: If you’re wondering if electric scooters are legal in New York, unfortunately, you’re out of luck. It’s illegal to operate an electric scooter in the state of New York. The state defines electric scooters as a device with a motor and handlebars and a platform for the standing rider. If this law doesn’t stop you from riding around New York, you can face a steep ticket or even jail time depending on whether it’s your first offense.
Texas: In this state, an electric scooter is defined as a device that’s propelled by an electric motor in combination or exclusively with human power and it can’t attain a speed that exceeds twenty miles per hour. The scooter can also not exceed a weight of one hundred pounds. There are no registration or licensing requirements.
Florida: This state defines a motor vehicle as any type of self-propelled vehicle that’s not operated on a guideway or rails, but not including motorized scooters, bicycles, or mopeds. Any vehicle that doesn’t have a saddle or seat for the rider and is not designed to travel on more than three wheels, is unable to propel the vehicle at a speed higher than thirty miles per hour is classified as a motorized scooter and isn’t allowed on roadways. However, despite the fact that they’re not allowed on roadways, the state still requires owners to register their scooters and have a valid driver’s license.
Ready for the Road
If you’re allowed to ride an electric scooter in your state, you also need to determine if the scooter itself is road-ready.
Riding a small electric scooter on the road isn’t usually allowed for a good reason. Many of these lower powered models are not safe, fast, or sturdy. Unlike small models that are designed for recreational use, scooters that are roadworthy must be powerful enough and sturdy enough to keep up with traffic. Scooters that are street legal are equipped with the right type of wheels, steering and suspension system for road driving, and they’re equipped with important safety features including turn signals, review mirrors, a horn, and lights. Keep in mind that these safety requirements tend to vary from state to state.
Because whether or not an electric scooter is legal is different in each state, we recommend looking up state regulations before you buy one. If you’re new to the state and already have an electric scooter, make sure you check out local laws before you take your scooter out for a spin in your new neighborhood.
Remember, when you’re riding your electric scooter on the road, the road rules apply to you. Regardless of whether or not your state requires you to wear a helmet, we highly recommend it, especially if you use your electric scooter for your daily commute to and from work, during high traffic times. You’ll also need to look into state-specific safety requirements, especially when it comes to night riding.