Are Electric Scooters Allowed on the Roads in San Diego?

June 26, 2018

If you’ve spent any time commuting or visiting San Diego, you’ve likely noticed the Bird scooters zipping through town. Just visit virtually any street corner and you can unlock one and take them for a ride yourself. One of the newest trends in ridesharing, you can rent a scooter (and enjoy the ride that comes with it) for less than a fancy cup of coffee. When you’re done, don’t worry about dropping it off at another docking station – just leave it where you please and a Bird employee will come collect it. Sounds convenient, right? Maybe for the riders, but it’s causing serious issues for motorists and pedestrians alike in San Diego.
Some of these issues are so serious, in fact, that people, companies, and cities alike are complaining. The City of Santa Monica, for example, issued a criminal complaint against Bird Riders, Inc. for violating city ordinances. People have left their scooters abandoned on handicap access ramps and private property, to the inconvenience of many. Since their inception, public authorities have received complaints of trespassing, operating without a license, and even issues with the vendor’s license.
In light of these issues, one wonders if it’s only a matter of time before someone on a Bird Scooter incurs serious injury – or injures someone else. Reports are beginning to surface of scooter users seriously injuring themselves by running into parked cars and more.

What are the California Laws For Electric Scooters?

Anyone who operates an electric scooter, including a Bird scooter, must abide by the following rules under California state and local law:

  • Possession of a valid learner’s permit or license
  • Wearing a helmet while operating the scooter
  • Bird scooters, in particular, are single use, which means no one may carry a passenger
  • Users cannot park on the sidewalk or block pedestrian traffic
  • Scooter riders cannot use the vehicles at night unless it’s a scooter with enough lighting to signal their presence to other drivers.

Additionally, scooter users must abide by all the rules of the road under California law. A scooter may only operate on the road, never the sidewalks, and must obey traffic signals, yield the right-of-way, and follow all other applicable traffic laws.
On the one hand, electric scooters like the Bird scooter have been invaluable in cutting down on carbon emissions, a commitment for many California cities, including San Diego. On the other hand, increased scooter use poses unique concerns with regard to liability and injury.

Liability in an Accident With an Electric Scooter

Several scenarios exist in which a person could incur injury, either as a rider or a pedestrian, due to an electric scooter. Some examples include:

  • A Bird scooter hits a pedestrian at an intersection
  • A scooter collides with a vehicle
  • A rider incurs injury when running into an open door
  • A scooter hits a pothole

Generally, motorists and scooters have an obligation to share the road. As with cyclists or motorcyclists, motorists must use a high degree of care while navigating around scooters. If a scooter user collides with a motorist, the fault will depend on the circumstances, though the motorist might be guilty of negligence for failing to assure a safe distance from the rider.
Similarly, a pedestrian who injures him or herself by tripping over a Bird scooter on the sidewalk may have a claim against Bird Rides, Inc. Since this is a fairly new concept in the area, it’s an evolving area of law. As more people incur injuries on electric scooters, we might see more liability claims against the company itself or motorists who commit negligence around the riders.
If you are injured in an accident involving a negligent rider on an electric scooter, contact the San Diego personal Injury attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP. They can fight for compensation for medical expenses, plus pain & suffering. Contact them today for a free consultation! (619) 295-0035
NEW UPDATE: We were featured on ABC 10 News about Scooter Injuries in San Diego! You can read the coverage here: