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Are electric scooters legal on sidewalks?

The surge in electric scooter usage has brought about numerous safety concerns, particularly for pedestrians navigating busy city sidewalks. Considering the popularity of electric scooters, one day, people will ask, “Are electric scooters allowed in Disney World?” However, right now, we are only talking about the sidewalks.

The Sidewalk Conundrum

Story after story in electric scooter news over the past few years has focused on the danger electric scooters pose to pedestrians. People leave them on busy city sidewalks as clunky obstacles. But even worse are some injuries sustained by pedestrians who scooter riders have hit. This is why most cities in the U.S. and many worldwide have made sidewalks off-limits to electric scooters.

Addressing Safety Concerns

Elderly and disabled pedestrians are particularly at risk from scooters on the sidewalk, and they account for a large number of e-scooter injuries. Lime, Spin, and other operators have worked on solutions for determining when scooters are parked or ridden on the sidewalk. This practice seeks to alert riders and share the data with local governments. Such technology may dissuade and prevent sidewalk misuse. However, current efforts are expensive and are only deployed at the scale of early tests.

Are Electric Scooters Legal on Sidewalks? Safety & Law Guide

Riding with Caution

It’s primarily up to individual riders to obey local restrictions, watch out for pedestrians, and ride safely and defensively. However, the situation is not as simple as having scooter riders stay off the sidewalk.

Considerations on Safety

Many riders feel riding on the sidewalk is safer since they do not have to compete with cars. A person on a scooter may weigh an additional 20-40 pounds in case of collision, but a car will weigh 3,850 more pounds.

While there may be more chances for accidents on the sidewalk, injuries can be far more severe in road accidents. It would be better to be extra careful, especially when roads are narrow, lack bike lanes, or have fast traffic. 

Promoting Safe Riding Practices

It’s also true that many scooter accidents are due to a lack of experience and failure to wear a helmet. Riders who personally own electric scooters instead of renting them have a far greater tendency to ride safely and be sure to bring a helmet along.

Understanding Local Regulations

A CDC study in Austin, TX, found that one-third of all e-scooter accidents involved inexperienced, first-time riders. As an e-scooter rider, you must gain confidence by training on your scooter before you hit the road. Knowing basic riding mistakes and tips to curb them are an effective tool for safe riding.  Besides, follow all traffic laws, use hand signals to alert others of their intentions, and wear proper safety equipment. Careful behaviour will diminish your chances of getting serious. Because foot traffic is unpredictable, riding on the sidewalk can increase those odds. So, you need to be aware of this and give pedestrians plenty of space. 

Navigating Legal Gray Areas

Many of these concerns do not apply in areas with little sidewalk traffic and few infrastructural accommodations for smaller vehicles. In such cases, riding on the sidewalk for at least a part of the trip is necessary, and it is far safer to do so. Riders must use their judgment but should also know their local laws. The best way to determine whether your city has banned electric scooters from sidewalks is to check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Regulations around electric scooters have, in the past few years, been inconsistent and subject to change. 

Adapting to Different Situations

Some riders who understand regulation well may still feel it necessary to be on the sidewalk at certain times. In these cases, they can walk alongside their scooter on the sidewalk without a ticket or fine. Another way could be to reduce speed to a pace comparable to walking. Similarly, walk alongside your scooter when on a pavement with incredible peripheral vision when the path is relatively empty.


Global Perspectives

Elsewhere in the world, the situation can be very different. Last year, for example, Calgary passed new electric scooter laws that prohibited scooters from roads. You can ride e-scooters on sidewalks, footpaths, and bike lanes, though you can still be fined for blocking pedestrians. The reasoning behind this ordinance is that it keeps riders safer than they would be on the road. This discussion points to the bigger problem: the lack of infrastructure for alternative forms of transportation.

Moving Forward

Things are pretty different in real-world scenarios, and for now, we don’t need to look into “Are electric scooters allowed in Disney World.” Electric scooters are here to stay; cities will adapt to them over time. For now, riders should use their best judgment before taking to the sidewalk and always give pedestrians the right of way. So, you must know the local laws and regulations to stay safe and sound.
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