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 Statutes
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.
Since Tempe is a hotbed, it’s certainly a logical place to start.
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”.
Tempe is presumably in the process of re-vamping everything to do with dockless sharing (both bicycle, and e-scooter, and presumable future e-bike) including rules of the road type restrictions; to the extent there’s confusion, that would be a good opportunity to clarify.
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.
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.