San Diego permits residents to utilize electric scooters as a mode of intra-city transportation. Electric scooters pose several benefits not only to individual riders but to the cities that recognize their value as public transit. E-scooters are more environmentally sustainable than other forms of public transit, and although they won’t replace other modes of travel completely, they offer a green option for those who can’t ride bikes to their destinations. In San Diego, riders must abide by both state-wide and city- designated regulations.
California Vehicle Code
Motorized scooter riders must follow California’s vehicle code specific to e-scooters and bikes.
- Electric scooters must not travel faster than 15 mph under any circumstance.
- Riders must possess a valid driver’s license or permit.
- Riders must not allow additional passengers onto their scooters.
- Riders under 18 must wear a helmet.
Operating Scooters in Traffic
- Riders must park their vehicles on the sidewalk but must not leave them lying on their side, or in a location that impedes pedestrian traffic.
- Riders must remain alert to road signs that prohibit electric scooter and/or bicycle parking from designated areas.
- Riders who traverse roadways are subject to all traffic laws. This includes abiding by road signs, traffic lights, and yielding right-of-way when necessary.
- Riders must not operate their electric scooters while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Riders may request a chemical test (breathalyzer) from a police officer with the purpose of measuring their blood alcohol content.
- Riders who are operating their scooter on roadways must pull over close to the right-side curb when they are traveling slower than traffic.
- Riders may overtake and pass vehicles on the roadway.
- Riders cannot perform roadway turns. They must pull over to the right-side curb, dismount their scooter, then cross the street like a pedestrian.
Operating Scooters in the Dark
- Electric scooters must possess a white-light lamp on the front of their scooter that illuminates up to 300 feet in front.
- Electric scooters must possess a red reflector on the rear of their scooter that is visible up to 500 feet behind the vehicle.
- Electric scooters must possess white or yellow reflectors on each side of the scooter. These reflectors must be visible from the front and rear of a scooter up to 200 feet.
- Riders may substitute front lamps/reflectors with similar objects that attach to their person.
- Riders must operate their scooter within available Class II and Class IV bike lanes.
- Riders can leave bike lanes to perform turns or address roadway hazards.
- Electric scooters can travel on bike paths and trails unless otherwise specified.
- Electric scooters can travel in bike lanes on roadways with any speed limit.
San Diego Municipal Code
San Diego’s Municipal Code details two laws that electric scooter riders must abide by:
- Riders cannot operate electric scooters in parks and other public spaces. They must only operate the e-scooter on roadways and bike lanes.
- Riders under 18 must wear a helmet while operating a scooter.
Riders who break any of the listed laws are subject to citation and fine like motor vehicles. E-scooter violations typically run between $100 and $200.
Beach and Boardwalk Rules
E-scooters have caused issues on boardwalks in the past, prompting San Diego to enact a new set of boardwalk regulations:
- Dockless electric scooter rentals will automatically cap at 8 mph.
- In pedestrian-only locations, like La Jolla and Mission Beach, electric scooters will automatically cap at 3 mph.
- Riders must abide by the limit of four electric scooters per docking station at beaches.
- Riders must not park their scooter within 6 feet of a bus or trolley.
Electric scooters can be magnificent, fuel-saving tools that make city-wide travel a breeze. However, riders must remain vigilant as if they are operating a motor vehicle. Disobeying traffic laws while operating a motor scooter is akin to committing a passenger car traffic violation, which means riders must exercise discretion in how they choose to operate their scooter.