Are electric scooters legal in the USA? The law explained

Are electric scooters legal in the USA? The law explained

February 02, 2023Richard Beech

Electric scooter law in the USA is complex and can be difficult to understand, it can also vary state by state - so we’ve put together a guide to help you make sense of it.

In short, electric scooters ARE legal to ride in the USA thanks to a federal law that covers two and three-wheeled motorized vehicles.

US electric scooter law explained:

This law dictates that a two or three-wheeled vehicle that is powered by a motor, or by a motor and pedals, can be ridden as long as the rider does not exceed 20mph, and has a motor that is 750w or lower.

While this law does not specifically mention electric scooters (as it was introduced before they became popular), it’s commonly accepted that they are covered under this law.

The vast majority of scooters are under 750w in power, and many scooters sold in the US are limited to 20mph in order to comply with federal law - but it’s important that you check the spec of your electric scooter before making a purchase.

Electric scooter law can vary by state:

Before purchasing an electric scooter, it’s also important that you check the latest laws in your local state, or in your local city.

The state of California has its own rules on electric scooters, and so do the cities of New York, Seattle and Chicago.

Electric scooter law in your area

Electric scooter law in New York:

New York City authorities seem to have a love/hate relationship with the e-scooter. After initially banning them, NYC came round to the idea that electric scooters can get people out of cars and can ease congestion.

In New York it’s legal to ride an electric scooter so long as it does not exceed 15mph.

Riders must be aged 16 or over, and riders aged 16 or 17 must wear a helmet while riding.

Electric scooters CANNOT be ridden on roads with a speed limit higher than 30mph, and they must not be ridden on sidewalks.

Electric scooter law in California:

E-Scooter law in California is similar to that in New York.

Electric scooters are legal in California so long as they do not exceed 15mph, and so long as they are not ridden on the sidewalk. They can be ridden on bike paths, trails and bikeways.

This law specifically pertains to motorized vehicles with two wheels, a footboard and handlebars, so does NOT cover electric skateboards or Onewheels.

Electric scooter law in Seattle:

Electric scooter law in Seattle is the same as bicycle law.

Riders must wear a helmet at all times when riding an e-scooter, and must not ride on the sidewalk.

The rules of the road must be followed at all times, including yielding at stop signs, stopping for red lights, and signaling when turning (which can be done by hand).

Electric Scooter law in Chicago:

The city of Chicago is tentatively developing its outlook on electric scooters.

Currently you cannot ride a privately owned scooter - i.e. you can’t buy your own scooter and ride it in Chicago.

That said, you can ride a scooter from a licensed ride sharing company such as Divvy.

The rental schemes are effectively trials that are being used by Chicago authorities to gather data and make an informed decision on scooter law.

The basic rules for shared scooters in Chicago are that you cannot ride on sidewalks, you may not ride them between midnight and 5am, and you must be at least 18 years of age.

If you are 16 or 17, you must have explicit consent from a parent or guardian.

You must wear a helmet at all times.

Your first trip will be speed limited to 10mph max speed, and subsequent trips will be limited to 15mph max speed.

Your electric scooter journey:

At Electroheads we are strong advocates of e-scooters for the way they can help people get from A to B with zero emissions, and for low cost.

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