Just what is an e-scooter? … what rules of the road apply?
For our purposes here, an e-scooter is an electric powered “kick” scooter that is sized to accommodate up to most adults; with weight limits being typically 220lbs. They travel on level ground up to about 15mph. A very popular model, the Xiaomi which is no longer sold at retail is said to be typical, and the basis for most of the scooter sharing companies, a la Bird, Lime, etc.
A few of the primary recurring questions are:
- May(/should) escooters be ridden on sidewalks?
- May(/should) escooters be ridden in the street?
- May(/should) escooters be ridden in a bike lane?
- Is a helmet required?
- What, if any, are age restrictions?
- Any equipment requirements?(e.g. lights, horn/bell?)
Although they have been around for years; the have recently become explosively popular and far more common in places where so-called dockless sharing has been made available. In particular Tempe (and probably neighboring Scottsdale?) where at least three companies have put hundreds of the devices onto the city’s streets; Bird, Lime, and Razor. Tempe is a small-ish land-locked city bordering Phoenix that’s dominated by Arizona State University.
Arizona Revised Statues UPDATE 2019 (#ars)
For before/up to 2019, see below. UPDATE: SB1398 PASSED both house and senate (unanimously, by the way) and was signed by governor 4/22/2019
A bill has been introduced into the 54th1Reg session (spring 2019) that would clarify and classify most operational aspects of escooters in state law; only if passed, of course!
The bill markup is very hard to read because of the way markups are generated, there are multiple versions of two affected statutes. The general approach springboards off the ebike bill (2018) structure. It defines two new devices, electric miniature scooter and electric standup scooter (let’s call them EMS and ESS); as well as tweaks the existing motorized skateboard; and makes it explicit that escooters are not motor vehicles nor are they vehicles. (all via changes to those def’ns in 28-101)
It then simply tacks on these new devices to the existing ebike statute(28-819, from last year); in other words EMS and ESS, like ebikes, would also be “granted all the rights and privileges and is subject to all of the duties of a person riding a bicycle.”; explicit relieved of any licensing, registration, title, administrivia.
But then it gets odd: “AN ELECTRIC STANDUP SCOOTER MUST HAVE A UNIQUE IDENTIFICATION THAT CONSISTS OF LETTERS OR NUMBERS, OR BOTH, AND THAT IS VISIBLE FROM A DISTANCE OF AT LEAST FIVE FEET…SHALL BE USED IN THIS STATE TO IDENTIFY THE ELECTRIC STANDUP SCOOTER ” This sounds a lot like a license plate; yet there’s no enabling legislation for that, thus creating a weird enforcement situation. (e.g. city of Phoenix requires a license plate for all bicycles but stopped issuing them decades ago; law is still on the books!)
Aside from that some of the definitional stuff doesn’t seem clear, e.g. “IS POWERED BY AN ELECTRIC MOTOR OR HUMAN POWER, OR BOTH.” would seem to say a scooter without an electric motor is still defined as an ESM or ESS; is that what was intended?
The speed clause seems a bit fuzzy; are the speeds mentioned (20 and 10mph) meant to be design capabilities, or operational? If the former it would seem there’s no way to know what speed a motor+human power could produce.
First hearing on bill was 2/13/2019. Video is available at the bill’s link above; the heavy hitters were there (both bird and Lime); nothing was mentioned about the “unique identification” that seems problematic to me. It flew through committee… curiously Cities of Chandler and Peoria registered as against but didn’t speak. Prime sponsor is Tyler Pace (R-Mesa).
Arizona Revised Statutes (current as of 2018)
The devices seem to have no relevant definition in the ARS. They cannot be a bicycle, if for no other reason that the wheel-size requirement excludes them; this also rules out the possibility that they can be any other derivative form of bicycle, such as moped or motorized bicycle, or the new e-bike definition. Other possibilities are Motorcycle, but lack of a seat rules that out.
The do fit the definition of a motorized skateboard, but that only states that such devices are not motor vehicles; and there are no other references in ARS to them.
28-101 7. "Bicycle" means a device, including a racing wheelchair, that is propelled by human power and on which a person may ride and that has either: (a) Two tandem wheels, either of which is more than sixteen inches in diameter. (b) Three wheels in contact with the ground, any of which is more than sixteen inches in diameter. 38. "Motorcycle" means a motor vehicle that has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and that is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground but excludes a tractor and a moped. 39. "Motor driven cycle" means a motorcycle, including every motor scooter, with a motor that produces not more than five horsepower. 41. "Motor vehicle": (a) Means either: (i) A self-propelled vehicle. (ii) For the purposes of the laws relating to the imposition of a tax on motor vehicle fuel, a vehicle that is operated on the highways of this state and that is propelled by the use of motor vehicle fuel. (b) Does not include a personal delivery device, a motorized wheelchair, an electric personal assistive mobility device, an electric bicycle or a motorized skateboard. For the purposes of this subdivision: (i) "Motorized skateboard" means a self-propelled device that has a motor, a deck on which a person may ride and at least two tandem wheels in contact with the ground. (ii) "Motorized wheelchair" means a self-propelled wheelchair that is used by a person for mobility.
One might wonder, if not for wheel-size thing, might they fit the definition of an e-bike? No, because buried in the e-bike definition is “equipped with fully operable pedals”. They might, then still be a motorized bicycle or moped because neither of those have a pedal requirement (these categories are all rather inconsistent) — but that’s just a hypothetical; their wheels are like 8″ or something, far below the 16″ minimum.
One might also wonder that maybe these are actually simply motor vehicles; but within the definition of MV it excludes something called a motorized skateboard, which would fit (two tandem wheels and a deck). It’s also possible the legal parsing of “self-propelled” would exclude it; is the kicking required, meaning it’s not self-propelled?
Lacking any applicable regulation, next stop would be to look for local ordinances. Ug; that’s nearly impossible to do thoroughly, there are at least dozens of sets of local ordinances, that of course depend on knowing exactly where you are (are you in Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert or Mesa? These cities and towns all have unique codes, and I might ride a bike in three or four of these in the same day on a regular basis).
One thing about state statute is clear, Bicycle lanes are for the “exclusive use” of bicycles (28-815C), so unless otherwise stated in a local ordinance any/all of other gadgets may not use a bike lane.
DUI? Hit-and-run? (#DUI)
Notably, one documented case of DUI, along with hit-and-run (and other) charges have been filed by city of Tempe against an escooter rider regarding an incident that occurred October 28. 2018 “Shelton Begay, 28, was seen riding in lanes of traffic on Rural Road near Broadway Road when he was involved in a collision with a southbound vehicle in another lane”. The cases show up on the city court’s site (but not supreme court case search). Given the ambiguous status of escooters in ARS, it’s not completely clear how those charges should apply.
More about the ever-popular topic of BUI on a bicycle see here. Recently DUI-attorney Cantor (whose position regarding bicycle-DUI I’ve disagree with) was quoted in a news article raising doubt about the charge, saying he’s filing a “friend of the court” brief which I think is the right thing to do, maybe we’ll get some actual clarification on the issue.
Skip below the lined material. In Sept. 2019 Tempe passed a whole new set of codes for not only escooters, but also affecting bikes and anything with wheels that’s not otherwise a vehicle in ARS.
Among other things: eScooters may ride on a sidewalk if no bike lane is “available” and the posted speed limit is 25+ mph.
Before Tempe’s passage of new e-bike regulations in 2017, I would have though the Motorized play vehicle would be applicable:
Sec. 19-1. - Definitions. Motorized play vehicle means a coaster, scooter, any other alternatively fueled device or other motorized vehicle that is self-propelled by a motor or engine and which is not otherwise defined in Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 28, as a "motor vehicle," "motor-driven cycle" or "motorized wheelchair." Sec. 19-22. - Prohibited operation. No person shall operate a motorized play vehicle or motorized skateboard: (1) On any sidewalk in the City, except for use in crossing such sidewalk by the most direct route to gain access to any public or private road or driveway; (2) In any city parking structure or city park, except for use on public roadways within such park; (3) On any public property that has been posted or designed by the owner of such property as an area prohibiting "skateboards"; (4) On any public roadway consisting of a total of four (4) or more marked traffic lanes, or having an established speed limit of greater than twenty-five (25) miles per hour; or (5) On any private property... One legal hair splitting with this def’n might be what does self-propelled mean? Does “kicking” to get the thing going mean that it’s not self-propelled? — if so then this def’n can’t apply. And if that were/is the case, then operating for transportation would be very restricted. No sidewalks, and almost all streets would be completely off limits (because of the 25mph posted restriction). Leaving perhaps only residential streets as the only legal place to operate… but… Tempe has a different definition of bicycle than the state (well, how does that work?), and in 2017 enacted new ordinances governing supposedly e-bikes, but it was actually much more broad; it included an odd new definition, the light motorized vehicle:
Sec. 7-1 Definitions Bicycle: A device propelled by human power which any person may ride, having two (2) tandem wheels or having three (3) wheels in contact with the ground. Electric bicycle: A two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of no more than 750 watts (1 h.p.), the maximum speed of which on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor, is 20 mph. Light motorized vehicle : All gas or electric powered, two- or three-wheeled vehicles with a gross weight of less than one hundred twenty (120) pounds and a maximum speed of thirty-five (35) miles per hour that are not an electric bicycle or an electric personal assistance mobility device. So it (still) can’t be an e-bike in Tempe even though there’s no wheel-size restriction, because the e-bike def’n in Tempe, like the state, requires fully operable pedals. There is, however, another odd (according to my way of thinking) category, the light motorized vehicle (LMV), that seems to fit escooters. This is a relatively unrestricted designation, LMVs are more-or-less treated like bicycles under this designation, since an LMV rider “is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to a bicycle rider under state and local law”. They may be ridden on any roadway open to bicycles regardless of posted speed limits or number of lanes (which is every road in Tempe. Only fully-controlled limited access highways prohibit bicycles), if there is a bike lane they may ride in it. Sidewalk use is permitted, but limited to human power only (how would that be enforced?); Helmets are required but only for persons below 18 (and i think the minimum age is 16, i need to look up). See Chapter 7, Article VI for the full list. Note that the LMV def’n does NOT say anything about “self-propelled”. There is an urban legend floating around; this was repeated to me 2nd hand as coming from Tempe police officer: scooters are only allowed on streets (perhaps streets posted above a certain mph?) with bike lanes or somesuch. Other variations of this same theme are that escooters are only allowed on sidewalks along streets with no bike lanes. This seems to be wholly untrue; as noted above there is the play-vehicle restriction to 25mph streets but that says nothing about bike lanes.
The foregoing lined-through material is what appliced before Tempe FINALLY PASSED SEPTEMBER 2019, and ongoing, an entire re-vamp of the code regarding bikes, ebikes and really anything with wheels that’s not a car; to the extent there’s confusion… so go to that article for background.
Phoenix passed escooter-specific rules in Sept 2019; skip below the lined-through archival stuff…
36-1 Definitions. Motorized play vehicle means a coaster, scooter, any other alternatively fueled device, or other motorized vehicle that is self-propelled by a motor or engine, gas or electric, and which is not otherwise defined in Title 28, Arizona Revised Statutes, as a motor vehicle, motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, motorized wheelchair or electric personal assistive mobility device. Motorized skateboard means a self-propelled device that has a motor, gas or electric, a deck on which a person may ride and at least two tandem wheels in contact with the ground and which is not otherwise defined in Title 28, Arizona Revised Statutes, as a motor vehicle, motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, motorized wheelchair or electric personal assistive mobility device. 36-64 Motorized skateboard and motorized play vehicle; prohibitions; disclosure requirements. A. No motorized skateboard or motorized play vehicle may be operated on any public sidewalk, roadway, or any other part of a highway or on any bikeway, bicycle path or trail, equestrian trail, or shared-use path... The rules in Phoenix governing motorized skateboards and “play vehicles” are rather draconian. The only reasons i can think of that these rules wouldn’t apply are the self-propelled question; and the “not otherwise defined” possibility… though I don’t think either of those pan out.
In a bit of history, CoP passed Ordinance G-6474 in July 2018 which related specifically to dockless bicycles. It didn’t have anything operationally for bicyclists themselves, other than to set up a bunch of more-specific rules about parking. Fast forward a year, and dockless eScooters are the big thing (fear?), Ordinance G-6602 June 2019 defines escooters similarly — but not identically — to ARS, says they must be driven no faster than R & P, and very plainly prohibits them on sidewalks, it also duplicates the very detailed bicycle parking rule instituted last year in G-6474. One niggling detail is the entire ordinance sunsets in July 2020; the intention being it’s a Pilot Program for dockless company permitees (e.g. Bird, Lime, Spin). Should the law sunset without replacement, the rules in CoP would revert to ARS (i.e. escooters are bicycles).
— go to the City of Phoenix’s public records search page to find the related documents for the ordinances; they link to staff reports / explanations —
The Phoenix ordinance opens up a weird (unintentional?) gap in that their definition limits to devices capable of going no faster than 15mph; the ARS is 20mph. (nota bena: this is not an operating rule, it’s not a “speed limit”).
Many escooters available for purchase do not fit Phoenix’s definition, but do fit the ARS designation, e.g. the very popular Segway Ninebot is rated at 19mph. This would leave riders of these privately-purchased escooters in legal limbo (see “motorized play vehicle”, above).
This is an example of poor law-drafting. Everyone is so focused on the immediate issue of dockess scooter-sharing they fail to see the overall picture; this could be easily addressed by following the ARS definition in 36-1 and placing an operating speed restriction elsewhere in the ordinance (if necessary, I’m not sure it’s desirable). Is this a safety issue? Don’t get me started — vehicles capable of 75, 100, 150mph and higher are readily available and perfectly legal to operate on Phoenix streets. These vehicles are routinely used to kill their drivers, passengers, other motorists, and other road users in the city. Why are they allowed?
The ordinance also, unless i missed it, fails to mention anything about “paths”, e.g. the many canal-paths. There may be none in the pilot-zone but, again, this ordinance applies to the entire city, and people can ride their own escooters anywhere.
Here’s the city’s webpage on the escooter Pilot Program including the map of operating zones for scooter-sharing scooters, designated parking places, etc.
There are four, and only four, “Person Types” that can be involved in a traffic crash per the ACR (Arizona crash report form; a standardized form used throughout Arizona).
eScooterists would then have to be… Drivers. This would somewhat consistent with the current taxonomy of defining riders of motorized bicycles as drivers, also.