Georgia looks to other states for e-scooter rules

AJC Video: Here are 5 things to know about what you should NOT do while riding e-scooters in Atlanta.

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported recently, a Georgia Senate committee is studying statewide regulations for electric scooters.

Among other things, the committee may develop basic rules of the road for the devices – where, when and how they’re allowed to be used. As it does, it’s looking at rules developed by other states.

According to a recent committee presentation, 22 states have regulated shareable dockless e-scooters – like the ones that have popped up by the thousands on Atlanta streets – in some way. Regulations are pending in almost all the others.

Many states set a statewide maximum speed for scooters at either 15 or 20 mph. Some prohibit the devices from operating on roads that have certain speed limits – usually 35 mph or more.

Some states have adopted more unusual rules. New York, for example, requires scooters to be equipped with a bell or other device for signaling (though the use of sirens or whistles is prohibited).

A common complaint about scooters is that they block sidewalks or crowd out pedestrians. California and Oregon are the only states that prohibit the operation of scooters on sidewalks – though other states authorize local governments to approve such bans.

Tennessee allows scooters to operate on sidewalks only when the electric motor is disengaged and only where the local government allows bicycles on sidewalks. And Utah authorizes local governments to set a maximum speed for scooters operating on sidewalks.

In addition to such rules of the road, a few states impose age limits or other qualifications to operate e-scooters. Utah prohibits children under 8 from using them. The minimum age is 16 in Washington, though local governments can set it lower.

California and Louisiana require riders under 18 and 17, respectively, to wear helmets. Oregon is the only state that requires all users to wear helmets, imposing a $25 fine for violations.

California is the only state to require riders to possess a valid driver’s license.

The states vary in how they approach local regulations. Seven states – including neighboring Alabama – allow local governments to ban dockless scooters altogether. Five others prohibit local governments from imposing scooter regulations more restrictive than bicycle regulations. Nearly all the states that have adopted regulations allow local governments to prohibit the use of scooters on sidewalks.

You can read the full presentation on other states' laws here (PDF file).

It's unclear what regulations, if any, Georgia might adopt in the upcoming legislative session. A pending House bill would prohibit people from parking them on sidewalks and other locations that could hinder vehicles or pedestrians. It would allow people to ride them on bike paths, in bike lanes and on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, if no bike lane or path is available.

The Senate study committee is expected to report its recommendations by December. You can read more about its work here.

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