When trying to answer, can you ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk, it’s important to take a look at your local bylaws. Cities around the world have varying regulations around electric scooters and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all situation. At times and in certain places, riding an electric scooter on public pathways can cause you to be faced with a citation and fine.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of using electric scooters on sidewalks and where you might want to consider an alternative method of travel.
Electric Bicycles vs. Electric Scooters
The first factor to take note of is whether or not your local government finds a difference between electric bicycles and electric scooters. Many governing authorities have determined that they are one and the same, and as such, the same rules and regulations apply. For example, in Ontario, Canada, electric bicycles are in the same classification as any motorized vehicle which looks like a scooter, conventional bicycle, or a limited-speed motorcycle.
On the other hand, some areas might suggest that electric bikes are far different from scooters, as bikes can reach higher speeds. Regardless, you will need to know your local laws.
Can You Ride an Electric Scooter on the Sidewalk: Common Regulations
Every city and state is different and it’s tough to specify what regulations specific areas have. However, there are common elements to take into consideration. For drivers of electric scooters, the most frequent regulations to abide by include:
According to the NHTSA, scooters which don’t have seats and require the rider to stand won’t fall under the same regulations as motor vehicles. That means, nationally, they aren’t regulated and instead, it’s up to cities to declare specific regulations.
2. Motor Power
It’s likely the city you reside in will specify the power limits for the motor on your electric scooter in order for them to be legal to ride on sidewalks. In most cases, motors above 500W will need to stay off of sidewalks.
3. Steering Ability
All electric scooters and bikes need to be equipped with handlebars that are used for steering so that you can easily avoid other pedestrians and obstacles or hazards.
Every electric scooter must be built with reliable brakes that are easily accessible to the rider. This shouldn’t be a concern, as most scooters have hand brakes which you can easily access.
5. Rider Age
In most places, there will be a minimum age requirement for all scooter riders, which is important to take note of if you’re buying one for your kid. Many places, such as the Netherlands and Canada, state riders must be above the age of 16 before they are allowed to ride an electric scooter. In other countries, such as Germany, they allow riders to be as young as 14.
Similar to the motor power, the speed of your scooter will determine whether it is eligible to be used on sidewalks or not. Most scooters above 12 miles per hour will not be allowed to be used on public pathways.
7. Protective Equipment
Aside from this being the smart thing to do, riders are typically required to at least wear helmets when operating electric scooters. This also applies to individuals riding traditional bicycles.
North America appears to be the continent with the laxest regulations pertaining to electric scooters, especially as they help to promote a healthier environment for everyone. The strictest, though, is the continent of Asia, as riders can face large fines and even jail time if they don’t abide by the local laws.
A few examples include:
- Japan: If an electric scooter achieves over nine kilometers per hour in Japan, it must be treated as if it is a motor vehicle. Drivers will be required to have a license, registration, working turning signals, headlights, and more. Nonetheless, these laws only apply if you’re driving on public-owned land.
- India: Electric scooter owners in India are able to ride electric scooters with insurance and tax, as long as the motor on the scooter is under 250W and the maximum speed falls under 25 kilometers per hour.
- China: When riding a scooter in China, you are required to register the scooter and apply for license plates. Their laws are slightly stricter because scooters have been the culprit of many serious accidents.
Where to Ride Electric Scooters: The Best Places
Unless you do the research, it’s safest to assume that riding an electric scooter on sidewalks is a bad idea, even for kids. With that said, there’s no reason as to why they can’t ride them on your private property or in the neighborhood, as long as they aren’t disrupting others around them.
If you want a little more space to learn how to ride properly and safely, you could always travel to a public park with plenty of space. Always be aware of your surroundings and ensure you are wearing the correct protective equipment.
For commuters, one of the best options is to use bike lanes that are typically created by the city. These lanes may have a separate sidewalk or be a part of the road, so you can travel at the same speed as traditional bicycles and other high-powered vehicles that aren’t quite motor vehicles.
Most places have a lot of laws and regulations revolving around e-bicycles and scooters and for good reasons. It’s quite likely you won’t be able to ride your scooter on sidewalks, but there are plenty of other options for you to use it. Once you’re able to answer, "Can you ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk?", you can have the peace of mind you need.