You’ve probably seen that e-scooters from companies like Lime or Bird are now available to rent in many U.S. cities. For many people, owning a car in a crowded city isn’t ideal. Instead, you can just rent and return a scooter. However, e-scooters are subject to the rules of the road.
So, we checked city requirements for operating an e-scooter in Santa Monica, California and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Between the two, we’ve identified seven rules you should follow before you hop on an e-scooter, no matter where you live.
1. Get insurance
Remember that when you ride an e-scooter, bicycle, or motorcycle, you’re operating a vehicle that leaves you unprotected in an accident with a car or truck. For that reason, you should ensure you have health insurance before you rent an e-scooter, no matter how short the ride.
It’s recommended that you get catastrophic health insurance as well as basic health insurance. In addition, supplemental insurance (like long- and short-term disability) is available through some insurance companies.
2. Learn the license or permit requirements
Check with your city’s e-scooter ordinance to determine whether you need a license or permit. In some locations, like Santa Monica, the rental company supplying the e-scooter does not require a permit or license to rent, but the city does. This situation has caused e-scooter riders confusion, resulting in fines and penalties for operating one on the road illegally.
3. Know where you can drive your e-scooter
Most cities limit the use of your e-scooter to the roads. For examples, Santa Monica does not allow you to drive an e-scooter in any parks, including Palisades Park. Sidewalks and beach paths are also off limits so pedestrians can stay safe. In addition, Santa Monica limits the use of e-scooters to designated roads, which have bike paths.
4. Find out if you must wear protective gear
Rules vary from city to city. While Winston-Salem does not require a helmet when you operate an e-scooter, Santa Monica does. Other protective gear include elbow pads and knee pads. Even if your city does not require a helmet while operating an e-scooter, it’s highly recommended you use one.
5. Know the rules of the roads
Whether or not you’re required to get a driver’s permit or license to operate an e-scooter, be sure to know the rules of the road — particularly when it comes to having the right of way when turning. Most important of all, verify the minimum age requirement in your city. In most areas, e-scooter drivers must be at least 18.
6. Know where to park
There are certain places you can park an e-scooter and certain places you can return it. Cities like Winston-Salem require that the e-scooter company make a 24-7 contact number available to customers so they can ask questions.
7. Keep emergency information handy
When you rent and ride an e-scooter, make sure you have all emergency information, like insurance and medical alerts, on hand. In short, e-scooters are made for adults to use on the roads, so it’s important to learn the rules.