Where is it legal to ride an electric scooter in the U.S. and where is it illegal?
Electric scooters are an essential part of micromobility, one of the fastest growing and most exciting industries in the world, and they have become hugely popular personal electric vehicles for students, commuters, and thrill seekers worldwide. Scooters and other personal electric vehicles promise a cleaner planet, more commuting satisfaction, more social mobility, and an abundance of savings in time and money.
With the pace of innovation, however, comes the struggle for regulation to keep up. The rapid adoption of scooters, especially in the United States, has made it difficult for riders to understand the legal landscape.
The Unagi X ESG 2022 Law Comprehensive Guide to riding electric scooters in the U.S. was created to address this growing problem.
Lawmakers and law enforcement across the world have been wrestling with electric scooters since Bird brought shared scooters to the scene in 2017. After pedestrian outcry, several laws changed quickly at the state and local level to try and fix the issues of shared scooters and meet demands of increasing numbers of electric scooter riders. (You can learn more about the challenges of legislating electric scooters at our post here [link to Laws History post].)
Legislators have written electric scooter regulations for helmet use, sidewalk riding, licensing, registration, and speed limits, rider age limits, and scooter weight limits. In order to map this ever-changing legal landscape, Unagi Scooters released the first edition of its Scooter Laws Comprehensive Guide in October 2019. The guide soon became the #1 Google search result for scooter laws-related searches, providing much more clarity for electric scooter owners. Then Unagi did a major update in 2021 that was also highly referenced.
This included better distinctions between city and state regulations and a summary of national laws for each category of regulation (helmets/sidewalk riding/etc).
The 2022 version has overhauled all graphics to promote better usability and shareability. The color-scale has been redefined, and all 50 states in the US (plus Washington DC) have been thoroughly researched and analyzed.
A Definitive Guide
The project has been challenging, requiring significant research and revision. Laws can be complex, changing frequently or remaining unenforced in some localities. Stay tuned to our work, because Unagi and ESG plan to publish research for other countries and large international cities like London.
This latest 2022 edition represents a collaboration between Unagi and Electric Scooter Guide to update graphics, state and local laws, and generally bring even more rigor to the research process. ESG researchers scoured through all available, current documentation to provide a definitive guide on electric scooter legality. Although both Unagi and ESG are based in the United States, they are rapidly growing and plan to publish research for other countries soon. We also plan to update this resource on an (at least) annual basis as well as take deeper dives into smaller subsections of regions (i.e. a post just for London, NYC, or the state of Tennessee).
2022 Laws At-a-Glance
You can find the full guide (much more state by state detail) linked here, with information about pending legislation and a more thorough explanation of the regulations below at the state level. We welcome corrections to the guide, and riders are encouraged to submit updates on local- or state-level laws through this submission form.
In the summary and updated graphics below, see an at-a-glance look at the best available data on electric scooter laws in the U.S.
Electric Scooter Laws in the U.S. by Category
You may think that sidewalks are always off-limits for scooters, and for shared scooters in urban centers, they essentially are. At the state level, however, and for all scooters, sidewalks are banned in 17 states. However, in a world presently built for the efficient movement of cars, not humans, there is much more to this tricky infrastructure discussion. (Read more at this post on sidewalks and electric scooters.)
You will find that in almost all cases, scooters are not allowed on high-speed streets (those with a speed limit above 35 mph for example), however, few scooter riders will want to do this anyway. Electric scooters moving at speeds of 10 mph to 20 mph will be safest on roads with cars going no more than 25 mph. Higher speed traffic can increase the risks of serious accidents and injuries. Only Pennsylvania and Delaware actually ban scooters on all streets.
Maximum speed is one of the most commonly enforced rules for electric scooters. The most common speed limit is 20 mph, which many may not expect, coming from the shared scooter model where scooters are almost universally maxed at top speeds of .
Licenses and Registration
The great news for electric scooters is that they only require DMV registration in North Carolina, Hawaii, and Louisiana. (You will not be so fortunate if you are a motorcycle or moped owner.) Nine states have required driver’s licenses in order to operate an electric scooter, but this method is unlikely to become the norm, given the special power of micromobility to give people who cannot afford a car access to opportunities.
Minimum Age and Helmet Requirement
The most common minimum age in the nation for electric scooter riding is 16+, and helmets are usually required for those below the age of 18. No governing body recommends that a rider not wear a helmet, and quite notably (as is also the case with bicycles), riders are trusted to make responsible decisions for their health and wear a helmet.
State by State Summary
For more details on each state, see the full guide published on Unagi’s site.
In general, electric scooter laws are rarely enforced or watched closely due to the developing nature of the landscape (even more so in the case of personally-owned lightweight electric vehicles).
In all cases, it is important that riders seek to consider those around them—pedestrians, other riders, and even cars that might be caught off guard by unpredictable riding styles—as well as become informed about the regulations and transportation cultures of their locality.
Unagi X ESG: Staying on Top of Legal News
The collaboration between Unagi and ESG has produced the very best online guide to scooter legality in the United States. We continue to research laws as they move slowly through committees at the state level and promise to change across entire countries in the near future. See the full 2022 Comprehensive Guide to Electric Scooter Laws by Electric Scooter Guide and Unagi here.
Corrections and Updates
We want this resource to be 100% accurate and the most helpful resource on the web. Please submit any corrections via this form so we can make sure that happens. A government official in Pennsylvania, for example, is always going to know the on-the-ground localized situation better than we will. Thank you so much! You can contact us at [email protected] as well, but the form is definitely the best way to ensure we have followthrough on updates.