In busy cities such as Oakland and San Francisco and bike-friendly college towns such as Davis, scooters and mopeds are great for commuting to work and class and for getting in and out of downtown efficiently. Although these fuel-efficient vehicles can get you from point A to point B much faster than a human-powered bicycle, they do come with risks.
Drivers of all vehicles should understand the licensing laws for scooters, mopeds, and electric bikes, as well as the safety risks.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles defines a moped, or a motorized bicycle, as a two- or three-wheeled device capable of no more than 30 mph on level ground. It may have pedals for "human propulsion" and/or an electric motor. Drivers must carry an M1 or M2 motorcycle license.
If the motorized bike can go no more than 20 mph, no driver's license or moped plate is required. For an $18 fee, the DMV issues a driver a special plate and ID cards. Electric bikes, which look like a regular bicycle but have a small motor in the back, fall under this category.
There are two different types of scooters. The popular Vespas and Piaggios that you see around town must be registered, and the driver must carry an M1 motorcycle license. The DMV calls these "motor-driven cycles."
The much more basic scooter has a floorboard designed to be stood on and a small motor. It does not have to be registered and can be driven with any class driver's license.
The Rules of the Road
Drivers of scooters, mopeds, and motor-driven cycles must follow the same rules of the road as regular vehicles. This means they must obey all stop signs and traffic signals. E-bikes follow the same rules as bicycles, which also means obeying stop signs and traffic signals.
Motorists should understand that these smaller vehicles have the same right to the road as a car. Because these drivers are more vulnerable, give them ample space when approaching from behind or when passing.
With more people choosing alternative transportation such as regular bicycles, scooters, and motorized bikes, automobile drivers should remain especially alert when driving near these smaller vehicles. Their small size sometimes makes them harder to see from behind the wheel of an SUV. Look behind and beside you when changing lanes or making a turn. A car or truck driver that hits a scooter or motorized bike may be liable for that driver's injuries or wrongful death.
If you were injured in an accident that involved a scooter, moped, or motorized bike, contact a personal injury attorney right away for a free consultation. An attorney with extensive California Vehicle Code knowledge can evaluate your claim and advocate on your behalf.
Photo courtesy of Kanaka Menehune, Flickr