A Template for Drafting or Amending State E-Scooter Legislation, with Alternatives and Accompanying Notes
These draft provisions are denominated a “template” rather than a “model” for three reasons. First, on many points they lay out alternatives rather than presenting a single approach. Differences in climate, topography, degree of urbanization, and the amount of previous integrated transportation planning can result in states having quite different perspectives on the e-scooter phenomenon. Second, provisions addressing e-scooters and e-scooter rental cannot be free-standing. They need to be integrated with the rest of a state’s motor vehicle code. That may well require altering the language employed in these sections and adding specific cross-references. Finally, these provisions remain subject to ongoing revision, influenced by the rapid rate of change in the micro-mobility sector and resulting legislative responses. As new statutory patterns emerge, they will be reflected here, in the form of additions to or revisions of the template, through amendments to the accompanying notes, or both. All such changes will be indicated by way of date and version number.
Chapter 1 – Definitions
Section 101. Motorized scooter
(a) A “motorized scooter” is any two-wheeled device, powered by an electric motor, that has handlebars, is designed to be used by a single rider, and has a floorboard that is stood upon when riding, This device may also have a driver seat that does not interfere with the ability of the rider to stand and ride and may also be designed to be powered by human propulsion. With or without human propulsion its maximum speed cannot exceed twenty miles per hour on a paved level surface.
For purposes of this section, a motorcycle, as defined in [ ], a motor-driven cycle, as defined in [ ], or a motorized bicycle or moped, as defined in [ ], is not a motorized scooter.
(b) A device meeting the definition in subsection (a) that is powered by a source other than electrical power is also a motorized scooter.
1. This definition, unlike those in some states, explicitly includes motorized scooters that have seats. For that reason, it contains language distinguishing other categories of motorized vehicles with seats. (This language should be conformed to the terminology employed in the adopting state’s motor vehicle code).
2. Since the definition requires handlebars and is limited to devices with two wheels, it does not encompass motorized skateboards (four wheels, no handlebars) or hoverboards (two wheels, but no handlebars) or single-wheeled self-balancing mobility devices. The California statute contains a separate category for all of them – “electrically motorized board” (Cal. Vehicle Code § 313.5). It carries speed and power limits comparable to those set for motorized scooters but is tied to slightly different regulatory provisions. In contrast, Oregon’s definition of “motor assisted scooter” requires neither handlebars nor only two wheels. Or. Rev. Stat. § 801.348. It thereby encompasses the lot.
3. The section lumps scooters of all sizes together. One state, Arizona, has just established an “electric miniature scooter” category for scooters that weigh less than thirty pounds and cannot exceed ten miles per hour. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 28-101(25) (as amended by 2019 Ariz. Laws 120). Any such separation of categories enables distinct regulations for the different types (such as who can operate them and where they can be ridden or in the case of Arizona, a requirement that larger, faster scooters display unique identification numbers, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 28-819(F) (as amended by 2019 Ariz. Laws 120).
4. Some states limit their scooter definitions by wheel size (not larger than 10 inches, Wash. Rev. Code § 46.04.336 (now removed); 12 inches, Minn. Rev. Stat. § 169.011(46)); or weight (less than 75 pounds, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 28-101(28) (as amended by 2019 Ariz. Laws 120), less than 100 pounds, Ark. Code § 27-51-1902 (as enacted by 2019 Ark. Act 1015). As these vehicles evolve, limits that are unrelated to the appropriateness of the associated regulations will require revision.
5. The definition’s maximum speed, 20 mph, is the limit most commonly specified by existing state statutes and is consistent with the maximum specified for class 1 and class 2 electronically assisted bicycles in a model statute adopted by a growing number of states. States do, however, vary on this point, ranging from 15 mph (Minn. Rev. Stat. § 169.011(46)) to 24 mph (Or. Rev. Stat. § 801.348).
Section 102. Scooter-share operator and scooter-share program
“Scooter-share operator” means a person or company offering a motorized scooter for hire; "scooter-share program" means a service in which shared motorized scooters are made available for hire.
This pair of definitions is important if, as seems desirable, the statute will not only address individual scooter operators but also set minimum standards for motorized scooter rental companies and programs, authorize localities to control them by license and regulation, or both.
Chapter 2 – Operating a Motorized Scooter
Section 201. Minimum age
No person under the age of 16 years may operate a motorized scooter on any public property, highway, path, or sidewalk.
Sixteen is the most common minimum age set by states imposing one (Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington). Utah allows operators as young as 8; Minnesota, 12; Virginia, 14. California has an implicit age limit in its requirement that operators hold a driver’s license or learner’s permit.
Section 202. Protective headgear
No person under the age of 18 years may operate a motorized scooter without wearing properly fitted and fastened protective headgear that complies with the bicycle helmet standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or standards subsequently established by those entities.
Prior to 2019 California required all motorized scooter operators to wear helmets, as Oregon continues to. This provision reflects California’s current rule and is consistent with the statutes of Maryland and Minnesota.
Chapter 3 – Motorized Scooter Equipment Requirements
Section 301. Brakes
A motorized scooter must be equipped with a brake that will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
This requirement is drawn from statutes governing bicycles (e.g., N.J. Stat. § 39:4-11.1); Minn. Stat. § 169.222(6)(e) and the statutes addressing motorized scooters in several states (e.g., California).
Section 302. Motor must disengage
A motorized scooter must comply with one of the following:
(a) operate in a manner so that the electric motor is disengaged or ceases to function when the brakes are applied, or
(b) operate in a manner so that the motor is engaged through a switch or mechanism that, when released, will cause the electric motor to disengage or cease to function.
This requirement is drawn from the California statute.
Section 303. Lighting equipment
Every motorized scooter operated upon any highway during darkness shall be equipped with the following:
(a) A lamp emitting a white light that, while the motorized scooter is in motion, illuminates the highway in front of the operator and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the motorized scooter.
(b) A red reflector on the rear that is visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.
(b) A white or yellow reflector on each side visible from the front and rear of the motorized scooter from a distance of 200 feet.
Chapter 4 – Registration, License, and Financial Responsibility
Section 401. Application of registration and related requirements
A person operating a motorized scooter is not subject to the provisions of this code [law, statute] imposing requiring financial responsibility, registration, and a diver’s license and for those purposes (and those purposes only), a motorized scooter shall not be deemed a motor vehicle.
While some states have equated motorized-scooters with bicycles and removed them completely from the “motor vehicle” category, the approach of this provision is to focus on the three “motor vehicle” requirements that pose the principal difficulty for motorized scooters: (a) vehicle registration with a state agency, (b) liability insurance or comparable assurance of the ability to compensate for potential damage inflicted on others, and (c) the operator’s possession of a valid driver’s license. The seemingly simpler move of removing motorized scooters altogether from the “motor vehicle” category requires the drafting of motorized scooter versions of general motor vehicle laws that should apply to them. For example, there is no ground for removing motorized scooter operator from general provisions that prohibit the operation of a vehicle while possessing an open container of alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The same is true of laws requiring the reporting of accidents and remaining at the scene of one.
Chapter 5 – Operation and Parking of Motorized Scooters
Section 501. Application of traffic laws
Every person operating a motorized scooter shall have all rights and duties applicable to the operator of a bicycle, except with respect to those provisions relating expressly to motorized scooters and with respect to those provisions of law that by their nature cannot reasonably be applied to motorized scooters.
In some form, this provision appears in nearly all statutes addressing motorized scooters.
Section 502. Safe operation
No person shall:
(a) operate a motorized scooter at a speed in excess of 15 miles per hour,
(b) operate a motorized scooter with any passenger in addition to the operator,
(c) operate a motorized scooter while carrying any package, bundle, or article that prevents the operator from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars or engaging in any other activity that interferes with steering and balance,
(d) operate a motorized scooter while wearing any headset covering both ears or wearing earplugs in both ears,
(f) leave a motorized scooter lying on its side on any sidewalk or park a motorized scooter on a sidewalk in any place or manner that fails to leave an adequate path for pedestrian traffic or is in violation of parking restrictions set by local authorities, or
(g) attach the motorized scooter or himself or herself while on a roadway, by any means, to any other vehicle on the roadway.
1. Speed limit
While permitted to operate on roads with greater posted speed limits, motorized scooters are limited to fifteen miles per hour by Arkansas, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington. Since scooters will operate in the same space as conventional bicycles and have less capacity to deal with potholes and other road irregularities there is strong reason to hold them to this limit.
2. Additional passengers prohibited
This requirement, analogous to the common requirement that bicycles not be ridden by more than they were designed to hold, is nearly universal.
3. Interference with the operator’s ability to control
This requirement, also borrowed from common bicycle operating rules, is widespread. The template expands the standard provision beyond carrying objects in order to reach other hazardously destabilizing activities such as holding a dog on a leash or manipulating a mobile device while riding.
4. Interference with the operator’s ability to hear traffic or warnings from passing vehicles
The provision is based on Md. Code Transp. § 21-1210.
5. Parking on sidewalks
The subsection is drawn from California’s statute with the addition of an invitation to local authorities to set up designated parking zones or other restrictions. See Cal. Veh. Code § 21235(i) The Kentucky statute forbids parking that impedes “the reasonable movement of pedestrian or any other traffic.” Ky. 2019 House Bill 258.
6. Attachment to another vehicle
Section 503. Where motorized scooters may be operated
(a) No person shall operate a motorized scooter upon a sidewalk, except as may be necessary to enter or leave adjacent property, or as authorized by local authorities.
(b) No person shall operate a motorized scooter on a highway with a speed limit in excess of 25 miles per hour unless the motorized scooter is operated within a designated bicycle lane, except that a local authority may, by ordinance or resolution, authorize the operation of a motorized scooter outside of a bicycle lane on a highway with a speed limit of up to 35 miles per hour. The 15 mile per hour maximum speed limit for the operation of a motorized scooter specified in Section 502 applies to the operation of a motorized scooter on all highways, including within bicycle lanes, regardless of a higher speed limit applicable to the highway.
(c) A person operating a motorized scooter on a highway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except in the following situations:
(1) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
(2) when preparing for a left turn, in which case the operator shall stop and dismount at the right-hand curb or right edge of the highway, and shall complete the turn by crossing the roadway on foot, subject to restrictions placed by law on pedestrians; or
(3) when reasonably necessary to avoid impediments or conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow lanes.
(d) A person may operate a motorized scooter on a bicycle path, bicycle lane, bicycle trail, or bikeway that is not reserved for the exclusive use of non-motorized traffic, unless the local authority or governing body having jurisdiction over that path, lane, trail, or bike lane prohibits operation by ordinance, rule, or resolution.
1. Operation on sidewalks
There is such a discrepancy between the speed of a motorized scooter and the pace of pedestrians that most states and local authorities relegate them to roads and bicycle lanes or paths. This provision appears in the statutes of California and Oregon.
2. Not all roads and highways
3. Keeping to the right
4. Using bicycle paths and lanes
Chapter 6 – Regulation by Local Authorities
Section 601. Local regulation
The provisions of Chapter 5 do not prohibit a local authority from regulating the operation and parking of motorized scooters upon the sidewalks, streets, highways, and other public areas under its jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power.
This approach is the norm. Some states (Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana), however, go further, leaving all or nearly all regulation of motorized scooters to local units of government. The Kentucky statute, following a third approach, calls upon a state agency “to establish safe operating standards for” motorized scooters.
Chapter 7 – Scooter-share programs
Section 701. Identification numbers on shared motorized scooters
(a) A motorized scooter offered for rental in a scooter-share program shall bear a unique alphanumeric identification number.
(b) The alphanumeric identification number shall be:
(1) Visible from a distance of five feet (5') and not be covered by a branding or other marking; and
(2) Used throughout the state, including by a local authority, to identify the shared scooter.
A few states have enacted laws addressing motorized scooter-share rental businesses, as distinct from the operation of the vehicles themselves. This section is based on acts recently passed in Arkansas and Utah. Its purpose is similar to the requirement that registered automobiles display plates, namely to allow the tracing of traffic or parking violations to a specific vehicle (and operator).
Section 702. Insurance
A scooter-share operator shall carry the following insurance coverage dedicated exclusively for operation of its rented motorized scooters:
(a) Commercial general liability insurance coverage with a limit of no less than one million dollars ($1,000,000) for each occurrence and five million dollars ($5,000,000) aggregate;
(b) Umbrella or excess liability coverage with a limit of no less than five million dollars ($5,000,000) for each occurrence and five 35 million dollars ($5,000,000) aggregate; and
(c) Workers' compensation coverage as required by law.
This section also is based on language in the acts recently passed in Arkansas and Utah. Its purpose is similar to laws requiring automobile rental and ride-share businesses to carry minimum levels of liability insurance.
Section 703. Regulation by local authorities
(a) A local authority may require a scooter-share operator to provide anonymized fleet and ride activity data for all trips starting or ending within the jurisdiction of the local authority and all ride activity resulting in an accident report provided that, to ensure individual privacy, the anonymized fleet and ride activity data is provided to a local authority through an application programming interface (API), subject to the scooter-share operator’s license agreement for the interface, in compliance with a national data format standard such as the mobility data specification;
(b) Fleet and activity data shall, however, be released to law enforcement if required by state or federal law.
(c) A local authority may require a scooter-share operator to participate in a system that allows association of an individual motorized scooter, with a specified date, time, and location associated with a reported traffic, parking, or license violation.