Electric scooters are all the rage in Southern California. Nowadays, you can unlock a dockless scooter using a smartphone, and use it until you no longer need it. Bird and Lime scooters buzz through the streets and, when riders aren’t careful, serious accidents can occur. Riders too can be liable if they caused an accident, so it’s important to obey the law and prioritize safety.

What Is an Electric Scooter?

The law defines a motorized scooter as a 2-wheeled device with handlebars, a floorboard, and something that riders can stand on. California state legislators have suggested a top speed of 25 miles per hour; advocates for pedestrians rejected this as being too fast for a sidewalk. Local law enforcement agencies objected because different types of scooters are rather similar, and it’s hard to tell them apart.

In California, scooters do not require DMV registration. A recent legislative bill, A.B. 2989, would have made more changes in the vehicle code. Instead, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee simply dropped a requirement for adults to wear helmets while riding stand-up scooters1.

The bill also attempts to combine the definition of e-scooters with e-bikes by placing them under the same definition of “motorized scooters”. A motorized scooter may be solely for standing, or having a seat, and be powered by motor or foot.

According to current law, motorized scooters:

  • Cannot be driven faster than 15 miles per hour.
  • May not be ridden on sidewalks.
  • Require a driver’s license to ride, which limits riders to those 16 and older

As you can see, there has been feedback on many fronts impacting the legal implications of riding an electric scooter. The electric scooter companies themselves are part of this intricate puzzle. Below we’ll look at each and how individual businesses are helping contribute to public safety.

Electric Scooters in the News

Several electric scooter companies serving Southern California have been in the headlines. They include:


The electric motorized scooter rental company, based in Santa Monica, has been rather vocal regarding riding/helmet laws and safety. A 130-page document it submitted to legislators said a lot about the environmental benefits of its products. But that wasn’t all— it also covered safety, to protect customers from Bird scooter accidents, and how the company planned to accommodate low-income riders.

Bird has partnered with the Shared Mobility Pilot Program in Santa Monica, a city that has seen an explosion of scooters on its streets and sidewalks in recent years. Launched in 2017, the company has introduced its own safety campaign for its on-demand motorized scooter rentals. Bird scooter riders must abide by the following rules2:

  • All must be over 18 years old.
  • Every rider has a valid driver’s license.
  • Only one rider, per Bird, at a time.
  • Riders must stay in bike lanes.
  • Users must park without blocking sidewalks/rights-of-way.
  • Riders obey stop signs and traffic laws.

In September 2017, Santa Monica became the first city to see Bird scooters. Nine criminal counts were filed against the company by the city in December, but two months later, it signed a $300,000 plea deal.

San Francisco enforced its own scooter law last April. Police in San Diego have been enforcing ticket laws, issuing tickets up to $250 to scooter riders without helmets.

For these reasons, Bird has been pushing for legislation that would provide consistent laws across California3.


Lime, a shared scooter, bike, and transit vehicle company started in San Francisco, has entered the market in in many cities nationwide. It has also been in the news regarding scooter safety. Two riders were killed in accidents in September 2018; one in Washington, D.C. by an SUV and one in Dallas, Texas, when a man fell off the scooter and suffered fatal head injuries, according to TechCrunch4.

Nonetheless, the company places a special emphasis on safety on its website. The safety page highlights the slogan “Ride Safely, Park Responsibly” and features several safety-centric embedded videos. There’s also a neat infographic on how to ride, use a Lime scooter, and apply hand signals while riding.

The company has also launched several programs to serve its diverse market base, including:

  • Lime for Cities: Scooters and other mobility device reduce traffic congestion and promote healthy living. The company found many people are using them along with public transportation, and has partnered with officials in many cities to determine placement and maintenance needs of its products.
  • Lime Campus Network: A bikeshare program for college campuses, offered in coordination with campus transportation authorities. The aim is to reduce campus traffic and provide students with affordable flat rate pricing.
  • Lime Business Network: Extends the availability of GPS-enabled smart mobility vehicles to companies and their employees, who can use them to commute to and from work or get around their neighborhood.
  • Lime Access: An equity program targeting low-income riders. Vehicles and discounts can be accessed via an app, so riders have access to subsidized rides, thanks to collaborations with community organizations and stakeholders.

Lyft, one of the most influential rideshare companies thus far, is the latest to jump on the electric scooter bandwagon. Its scooters have launched in Denver and Santa Monica starting in September 2018, and are designed to travel at up to 15 miles per hour. The company’s mobile app makes it easy to find, unlock scooters, and end a ride.

Lyft scooters provide a low-cost mode of transportation. They have a battery range of 15 miles, which can be seen via the mobile phone app, and cost $1 to unlock and $0.15 per minute to ride5. Another perk is Lyft Community Pass, which simplifies access for residents who live in the company’s service areas.

JUMP Bikes

An initiative of Social Bicycles Inc. in the United States and Germany, JUMP Bikes was purchased by Uber in April 2018, for a whopping $200 million6. It offers a dockless electric bicycle sharing system that employs motorized, battery-powered vehicles. These bikes can be dropped off and locked anywhere in a city it’s legal to do so; and bikes can be easily ordered using the Uber app.

The website does a great job clearly explaining how the bikes work. You get useful tips such as applying both brakes at the same time, adjusting the seat so you can touch the ground with your foot, and using a bike’s headlight and tail light when it’s dark.

Lots of safety information is provided as well. The site makes a point of emphasizing the use of a helmet, a key safety factor in many electric scooter accidents. It also includes concise language regarding planning routes and checking the bike beforehand, how to brake properly, and to follow traffic laws. In addition to paying attention to traffic and using hand signals, the safety page makes important notes about crossing railways and riding during inclement weather.

How Scooters Can Be Dangerous

Scooters are beneficial in many ways. They can help by:

  • Reducing vehicular traffic on congested city roads.
  • Reducing air pollution, since there are no emissions.
  • Providing economic opportunities for mobile workers and freelancers.

electric scooter at crossroad

The benefits, like ease of use and access, are key to the popularity of electric scooters. However, they can be dangerous under certain circumstances. Several major factors impact safety, like:


Scooters can travel up to 15 miles per hour. That might not sound too fast, but the average pedestrian walks at about three or four miles per hour, or about four times slower7. Riders usually go at full speed if they have a clear path. In a crash, speed is combined with the weight of the scooter and rider, which can be quite harmful and even deadly.

Sidewalk Riding

Electric scooters can make sidewalks a hostile environment. Pedestrians may think the coast is clear once a rider passes, but another one may be around the corner. A collision can happen unexpectedly and tragically. Scooter riders who try to avoid pedestrians are at risk of falling and being injured as well.

Abandoned Scooters

Some electric scooters can be left anywhere (Bird is a perfect example). If a scooter is left lying across a sidewalk, it could be a trip hazard. People have also left them blocking doors and driveways, building entrances/exits, and handicap access ramps. According to Curbed Los Angeles, the Santa Monica City Council voted in March 2018 to allow law enforcement to impound scooters that are used improperly8.

Road Defects

Riders should be on the lookout for potholes, large cracks in the pavement, uneven surfaces, debris, and loose gravel, which can suddenly throw a small vehicle off balance. Two-wheeled scooters are less stable to begin with, which makes emergency braking or swerving dangerous.

Car Accidents

A driver may not see a scooter rider, especially during a left turn or when changing lanes, but the rider is at a much greater disadvantage. There’s no barrier to protect them, such as a seat belt, airbag, or vehicle frame. Determining liability can be a difficult challenge after an accident, but a Los Angeles personal injury attorney can help an accident victim get the compensation they need to pay for medical bills and daily expenses. More about liability later.

Scooter riders face a host of other risks. If you’re inexperienced, you may not know what to do in an unexpected situation. And, no licensing or training are required to prove your competence and understanding of safety. If you panic, a hard stop can cause the front wheel to lock and throw you off the scooter. Not wearing a helmet, riding against traffic or on sidewalks, with more than one rider, or being intoxicated or otherwise impaired are dangers that can be avoided.

Who Can Be Held Liable


If a pedestrian was hit by a rider and was injured, the scooter rider can be held liable. They can also be legally accountable if their actions caused an automobile driver to swerve and crash, causing injuries.


A pedestrian can be at fault for a scooter rider’s injuries. One example is if they purposefully or negligently step in the rider’s path. An electric scooter rider therefore isn’t always the one to blame for a pedestrian accident, but it depends on the pedestrian’s specific actions and intent.

Scooter Company

If you’re injured in a crash caused by a scooter malfunction, the company may be at fault. Defective wheels, brakes, and other parts can place liability on the company for a Bird or Lime scooter crash, for example. However, Bird/Lime apps include a user agreement that releases the companies from liability, complicating personal injury claims.

Automobile Drivers

Negligent driving, such as when a motorist makes unsafe left turns, is aggressive towards a scooter rider, or is intoxicated or impaired can hold a driver liable if they caused an accident, injury, or death. The driver’s auto insurance provider is responsible for paying if the insured is at fault.


If a scooter rider is injured or killed in a crash caused by a pothole, road debris, or defects in the road, the city may be at fault and required to provide compensation. User agreements complicate matters here too. For example, The City of Santa Monica includes release language in scooter company app user agreements stating its employees are not liable for scooter accidents.

There are other parties who can be held liable. A dog owner may be at fault if their pet is unleashed and causes the rider to crash by chasing or attacking them, or to fall while panicking and getting away. Businesses may be at fault for scooter injuries caused by gravel, misplaced construction materials, improper signage, and other hazards they leave behind. If you have been injured, it is imperative you contact a Los Angeles rideshare attorney to discuss your case.

Rules of the Road

Keeping yourself safe is the best way to avoid an accident and, subsequently, requiring a Bird scooter accident lawyer. Rules pertaining to electric scooter rider responsibility and safety are contained in California Vehicle Code Operation of Motorized Scooters [21220 – 21235]9. It requires all users of motorized scooters to:

  • Have a valid driver’s license or instruction permit.
  • Wear a helmet at all times.
  • Stay on roads designated for motorized traffic.
  • Never ride on the sidewalk.
  • Ride alone, without passengers.
  • Use proper lighting equipment at night.
  • Never park in the way of pedestrians.

According to state law, motorized scooters ridden at night must have a front light source and reflectors. The light must be visible from the front and sides to maximize pedestrian and rider safety.

California Regulations

lime-electric-scooterIn California, motorized scooter use is regulated under Section 21235 of the Vehicle Code. Assembly Bill No. 2989 was approved by the governor and filed with the Secretary of State in September 2018. A controversial aspect of this bill, as noted earlier, is it requires only scooter operators under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. It also enables local authorities to authorize the use of motorized scooters on highways, at a speed of up to 35 miles per hour or higher if the vehicle is operated within a Class IV bikeway, otherwise known as a protected bike lane or cycle track.

In addition to the requirements above, Section 21235, following the latest amendment, forbids motorized scooter riders from operating the device unless:

  • It is equipped with a functional brake suited for dry, clean, level pavement.
  • It is operated within designated speed limits appropriate to a local jurisdiction.
  • They have a properly fitted, fastened bicycle helmet if under 18 years of age.
  • They do not carry items preventing them from reaching the handlebars.
  • They avoid holding on to other vehicles on a road.

State law forbids riding an electric scooter on a sidewalk, except to exit or leave a property adjacent to it. Scooters also can’t be used on highways with the handlebars raised so high, the user must raise their hands over their shoulders to reach the steering grip.

For a more detailed perspective, view the regulatory language available on the California Legislative Information website.

Electric Scooters Safety Tips

Whether familiar with state laws and regulations or not, safety should always be your top priority. It helps protect electric scooter riders, pedestrians, and motorists. Here are some safety tips to consider whenever riding a scooter:

Protect Yourself

Helmets are always needed. If you’re over the age of 18, you’re still at risk of injury from a crash, which can cause severe head trauma that might lead to a cut, concussion, or traumatic brain injury. By not wearing a helmet, you may be held liable for an accident. A study of cyclists worldwide, by Australian researchers, determined helmets reduced the risk of serious head injury in an accident by as much as 70%10.  In addition, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has recommended scooter riders use safety gear such as eye protection, pants, jackets, gloves, and boots. Bird has warned users to always have a helmet on; free helmets can be requested via the company’s app.

Be Aware

Riders are less at risk of electric scooter accidents if they pay attention to their surroundings. This means observing surrounding cars at intersections, leaving off headphones to hear what’s happening nearby, and keeping both hands on the steering handles. Start off slow; make sure you’re used to how the accelerator and brakes work before picking up speed.

The need for awareness is not limited to just scooter riders. It also applies to:


Must stay alert to any passing riders. If a scooter rider is behaving inappropriately or seems inexperienced, it’s best to stay clear of them. Even if you panic, don’t make any sudden moves that can put you in the path of an oncoming scooter or cause the rider to lose control.


Motorists should obey all traffic laws. They should check their mirrors and blind spots before turning, changing lanes, or parking to avoid accidents with much smaller scooters. When making driving decisions, check that no scooters are approaching or are in the way.


Bus drivers need to be aware of when riders are nearby, and know their blind spots to ensure all objects are seen before turning. If a passenger brings a scooter on board, make sure the device is secured before the bus is in motion.


Are much faster than electric scooters, and a motorcycle hitting a scooter can lead to injuries just as severe as if the rider was hit by a car.

Obey Traffic Laws

No vehicle on the road is exempt from traffic laws, which are in place to improve the safety of motorists, pedestrians, and bicycle, motorcycle, and electric scooter riders. Breaking the law can lead to a fine, summons, or arrest by law enforcement officers and cause preventable injuries and fatalities. To stay safe:

  • Abide by any speed limits set by your state, city, or town. Speeding is one of the most common causes of road accidents.
  • Be aware of traffic conditions to avoid crashing, being hurt trying to avoid a crash, or riding into an open car door.
  • Stay in designated bike lanes and paths so there is no interference with motorists or pedestrians.
Don’t Ride at Night

If possible, avoid riding in the dark, when it’s harder for scooter riders, motorists, and pedestrians to see. It’s also harder to identify road hazards such as uneven pavement or potholes. There’s a higher potential for impaired drivers that may contribute to crashes. About 49% of fatal crashes occur during nighttime hours, even though fewer drivers are on the roads11. It’s also important to note that visibility is just a few hundred feet for motorists, even with high beam headlights in the dark. That makes spotting small scooters difficult on a busy road or where there seems to be no obstructions ahead. Overall, you can see how things are riskier for scooter riders at night.

In an Electric Scooter Accident? Call The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani

Electric Scooters On The Street Near Concordia Square During TheA prominent personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles, Jacob Emrani fights for clients who may be victims of automobile, bicycle, motorcycle, bus, or pedestrian accidents. Electric scooter accidents can cause very serious, life-altering injuries. For riders who are safety-conscious, another vehicle or a pedestrian can be held liable, depending on the circumstances. We will review your case at no cost and provide a free estimate as to how much your case is worth.

The reasons to call Jacob include 20 years’ experience practicing law and fighting insurance companies, even in cases such as Bird scooter accidents in the local area. Insurers typically look to pay less, but we fight for maximum compensation to help cover medical bills, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages. We’ve fought and won cases resulting in million-dollar verdicts and make working with us easy. If travel is difficult, we will meet at your home or office to go over all the details.