The short answer to the question is yes, but there are a number of exceptions to this simple answer. Because the answer leans more to the legal perspective, there are several clarifications that need to be made to better understand exactly what the rules of the road are.
Another common name for an electric scooter is an electric moped. There are gasoline versions of the moped, but this article will only focus on the electric type. One characteristic of an electric moped is the vehicle does not have pedals.
Though the requirements vary from state to state, generally the owner/rider is required to have insurance, license, and registration the same as an automobile.
One unique distinction that separates the electric scooter from the other two-wheel, engine-powered vehicles is the inability of the rider to get any exercise benefit while riding. It is designed primarily for use on city streets. The top speed allowed for an electric scooter is 30 miles per hour, while alternatives such as e-bikes and kick scooters cannot reach a top speed in excess of 20 miles per hour.
Understanding “Street Legal”
In order to meet Federal requirements, an electric scooter needs to limit its top speed to 20 miles per hour and its power to under 750 watts. It also must have pedals that are functional.
By meeting these minimum standards, an electric scooter will fall under the classification of a bike and can be used on bike lanes.
However, these are the general Federal guidelines for the sale of a scooter but concerning the licensing, registration, and operation of an electric scooter, state laws have precedence as long as those laws meet or exceed the Federal requirements listed here.
Summary of State Regulations
A current list of all the state regulations, including international countries, can be found here.
There is some excellent information here, including specific state vehicle codes in the United States. Here is a summary of all 50 states that will provide the basics of the laws and make it easier for you to find the information you need.
There are 7 categories used to describe the legal requirements that will allow you to ride your electric scooter on a bike path:
- Identity: How exactly does legislation identify the electric bicycle?
- Type: How does the law define vehicle type?
- Max Speed: Maximum speed when powered solely by the motor.
- Max Power: Maximum motor power, or engine size, permitted.
- Helmet: Is usage of a helmet mandatory?
- Minimum Age: Operator’s minimum age.
Driver’s License: Is a license or endorsement required for the driver?
Only 4 states – Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, and Mississippi – have no legally defined maximum speed limit to distinguish an electric scooter from any other type of electric bike. In Mississippi, you can apparently put a motor on a standard bicycle and it becomes an electric scooter (subject to meeting the basic Federal guidelines described above).
In the state of New York, electric scooters are illegal to own or operate unless the qualify as “non-throttle controlled” vehicles. There are no legal requirements for licensing if the conditions are met, but the maximum speed limit of the e-bikes must not be greater than 20 miles per hour.
About 20 states require some type of driver’s license or permit to use an electric scooter on a bike path. Delaware and South Dakota have undefined licensing requirements, but this should not be understood as a free pass to ride your scooter in public venues. Idaho has a liability insurance requirement every electric scooter owner must-have.
The vast majority of states require a minimum age of 16 to operate an electric scooter, but there are some notable exceptions.
• The following states have no minimum age requirements on the books: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
• Utah allows children as young as 8 years old to operate an electric scooter provided they are under the supervision of a parent or adult guardian.
• Nevada, omitted from the list of states that have no minimum age requirements, is unique because you are cautioned to be aware of the state’s reckless endangerment laws. This is an important side note to every electric scooter owner and rider because while you may be legally able to ride your scooter on a bike path, there are other laws and considerations that must be taken into account. The operation of any motorized vehicle, regardless of its speed or power, is a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously.
From a safety perspective, the following states have mandatory helmet laws for all riders: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and New Jersey.
These states require riders under the age of 16 to wear a helmet: Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Some states extend the legal requirement for wearing a helmet to 18 or 19 years old.
Best States for Operating an Electric Scooter on a Bike Path
Mississippi and Nevada are two of the best states to ride freely and without worrying about any type of legal hassles on bike paths.
Neither have age or helmet restrictions, yet choosing to ride in any state means you should be aware of the state and local laws covering not only operation of the scooter, but of any potential legal liabilities in the event of an accident that injures yourself or another party.
On the other side of the road are states such as Idaho that require riders to have liability insurance and a Class D driver’s license.
It may seem more than a little restrictive but both the riders on the bike path and others who are using it can be confident that the state takes the ownership and use of an electric scooter seriously.
Idaho is an interesting example as its state capital, Boise, has three companies that actually manufacture electric scooters. Regulations concerning electric scooters are being created and changed every day across the country, so it is important for all owners to be aware of how the laws affect you where you live.
*The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.