E-Scooting, Cali Style – California’s Electric Scooter Laws for 2021

It’s official: “e-scooting” is taking over commuting! Although micro-mobility stalled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has seen a resurgence in recent months. As more people look for sustainable and socially distant modes of transportation, rentable e-scooters should have a bright future across the USA.

But before Californians start scooting down streets, they should understand the state’s latest e-scooter standards. Even though these devices are new, that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules & regulations in the California Vehicle Code (CVC).

First off, you should be sure what you’re riding fits California DMV’s definition of an e-scooter. In addition to an electric motor, all e-scooters should have two wheels, a pair of handlebars, and a floorboard. Under California law, e-scooters cannot exceed 15 mph.

While e-scooter riders don’t need to file for a special license, that doesn’t mean anyone could use one of these units. Indeed, California only allows riders with a driver’s license or learner’s permit to legally use e-scooters. If you’re under 18, you must also wear a DOT-approved helmet while riding an e-scooter.

Now that you know whether you could legally scoot in Cali, let’s talk about where you could ride. Under the CVC, e-scooter users should only ride near the right curb in Class II Bicycle Lanes. If there aren’t bike-protected lanes in your area, or there’s hazardous debris blocking your way, you could legally ride as close to the right curb as possible.

Technically, it’s only legal to ride on the street in California if the speed limit is 25 mph. However, local governments have the option of allowing e-scooters on roads with a 35-mph limit. Be sure to check your municipality’s ordinances for detailed info on this issue.

Whatever you do, you shouldn’t ride an e-scooter on the sidewalk. The CVC only allows e-scooter riders to park their e-scooters on sidewalks if they don’t obstruct pedestrians or businesses. If bike racks or e-scooter docks are provided, it’s best to use these when parking your device.

Lastly, as an e-scooter rider, you will technically be classified as a “motor vehicle.” Hence, you have to respect pedestrians’ right of way.  Also, you shouldn’t ride your e-scooter across crosswalks, especially if you’re turning left.

To better understand where to use e-scooters in California, be sure to read through CVC § 21235. You could also research your municipality’s latest e-scooter rules for more specific guidelines.

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