How to Use Electric Scooters Safely--and Legally

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Over the past couple months, you may have seen the neon Lime-S electric scooters tossed every which way around Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. Why the sudden interest in riding electric scooters?

Around April, dockless scooter-share programs from Bird, Lime and Spin unleashed their scooters in San Francisco without permission from the city. Lime-S scooters appeared in Oakland and San Jose around the same time.

e-Scooter proponents say they provide another car-free transit option for getting around town. They get you from point A to B faster than walking, and sometimes cycling, for around the same price as AC Transit fare. Lime-S scooters cost $1 to start and 15 cents a minute.

Detractors say e-Scooters are dangerous. Riders fly along sidewalks, scaring pedestrians. They toss the scooters into bike paths, parking spots and other odd places. Vandals disliked the Lime-S so much they tossed a few into Lake Merritt.

While Oakland and San Jose consider new rules to regulate electric scooters, San Francisco made its decision. In late May, it decided companies such as Lime, Bird and Spin must remove their scooters from city sidewalks until they receive a permit. SFMTA is supposed to let the companies know if they qualify by the end of this month.

If you decide to use an electric scooterto get yourself around Oakland, here are a few things to know to stay safe. And legal.

1. Do not ride on the sidewalk. Please. Electric scooters on sidewalks put pedestrians-for whom sidewalks are intended-in danger. Plus, it's not legal. Electric scooters follow the same rules as bikes, which means they aren't allowed on sidewalks. Use bike lanes, bike paths and the far right side of the road, and be ever-courteous to the bicyclists who will likely want to pass you.

2. Wear a helmet. Remember, you follow the same rules as bikes, which means a helmet is required. Pay no mind that most electric scooter riders don't wear helmets. If you crash your scooter while riding 10 to 15 mph, you can suffer a concussionor traumatic brain injury just as easily as a cyclist. Lime is reportedly considering including helmets with its scooters, as they should.

3. Be over 18. You have to be age 18 or older to legally ride an electric scooter.

4. Be respectful. Don't toss the scooter on the sidewalk in the public right-of-way. Don't block a precious parking space downtown. Don't leave them in the middle of a city street. And don't toss them into Lake Merritt!

Bird recently issued a "Save Our Sidewalks" pledge. The company promises to retrieve electric scooters from city streets every night and reposition them where consumers want them the next day.

It also says it will not increase the number of e-scooters unless they are being used on average at least three times per vehicle per day. Bird also offers to remit $1 per vehicle per day to municipalities so they can use the money to build more bike lanes and promote safe riding. Bird encourages other e-scooter companies such as Lime, Jump and Mobike to join the pledge.

5. Don't ride on the sidewalk. It's important enough to repeat. Don't ride your electric scooter on the sidewalk. Wheelchairs are the only motorized vehicles allowed on sidewalks.

If you've suffered an injury on an electric scooter, or collided with an electric scooter rider, contact a personal injury attorney right away. An experienced lawyer will provide a free consultation to review your case and help you understand your rights.

Photo: Matt Korman

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
2201 Broadway
Penthouse 1
Oakland, CA 94612

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