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Electric Scooter Laws & Regulations in Seattle
Electric scooters have gained phenomenal notoriety in recent years throughout the United States. Despite the increased popularity among the general population, some cities, like Seattle, have challenged their safety. The question remains whether a safe way to integrate motorized scooters into the realm of public transit exists.
History of Electric Scooters
Peugeot was the first commercial electric scooter manufacturer. The company introduced its first functional e-scooter in 1996. The scooter was heavier than modern electric scooters, weighing 250 pounds. Despite its weight, the scooter’s battery power was impressive, providing 25 miles worth of travel with each battery charge. Many manufacturers tried to improve this clunky, heavy version of the scooter, but many of these failed models no longer exist. Earlier manufacturers couldn’t figure out how to effectively house such large batteries within small-framed scooters. It wasn’t until technology allowed for more efficient battery storage in the early 2000s that the modern electric scooter emerged.
As motor scooters became more common, they gained popularity not only as a fad, but for their utility in traveling within the intercity environment. The scooter-sharing service, Scoot Networks, launched their business in San Francisco in 2012. Scooter sharing has gained traction in additional American states and European countries alike since then.
The Growing Market for Scooters
The first dockless e-scooter sharing service emerged in 2017. This made obtaining these vehicles even easier, as riders could simply pick up a scooter on the sidewalk and travel to their destination without worrying about finding a docking station. The market for electric scooters continues to grow.
Dangers of Electric Scooters
Concerns about the safety of electric scooters have risen along with their increased popularity. However, little solid research exists that provides comprehensive statistics. Although no national data on the danger of electric scooters is available, several agencies attempted to gain some information about the incidence of scooter-related accidents.
One such agency, Consumer Reports, collecting information from 23 medical facilities in California, reported that a total of 1,545 patients required treatment for e-scooter injuries in 2017. This figure may be higher, because the 23 medical facilities chosen do not represent the state as a whole.
In Portland, Oregon, a four-month pilot program revealed electric scooters made up five percent of all traffic incidents. The researchers calculated the average injury rate for e-scooter use was 2.2 accidents for every 10,000 miles traveled. However, the study’s researchers noted that not all of the injuries were related to rented e-scooters, making the injury rate lower in reality. Contact a Seattle personal injury lawyer today if you have been injured on an electric scooter.
Solving Safety Problems
Setting guidelines in reference to scooter usage decreases the overall incidence of injury. One of the biggest issues surrounding electric scooters is the lack of helmet regulation for dockless scooters. Helmet laws and regulations address this issue. Traffic-related injuries are also a worry for those concerned with e-scooter safety. A recent proposal has been to introduce scooter lanes, which would function much like bike lanes.
Why Do People Want Electric Scooters?
Two main reasons are cause for the growing popularity of electric scooters. Both reasons typically center around urban cities, which is where the market for e-scooters is greatest. The first reason for e-scooter growth is its fuel efficiency. In these congested urban cities, electric scooters have value because they leave small a physical footprint and don’t leave a carbon footprint at all. This is valuable when comparing the environmental impact that e-scooters have versus other modes of travel.
Electric scooters are also helpful when traveling within urban environments. It reduces the stress associated with traffic and parking when attempting to drive a car during busy traffic hours. E-scooters are also cheaper to rent than car-sharing and taxi-sharing services, which also charge higher rates during hours that are known to be busy. Moreover, motor scooters typically have shorter trip durations, making them extremely advantageous when traveling in the city.
Electric scooters are gaining support in Seattle. Council member Teresa Mosqueda personally supports the push for e-scooters, advocating Seattle’s upcoming pilot program to distribute scooters throughout the whole city for riders to take advantage of. An additional council member, Abel Pacheco, supports e-scooters because many residents, like himself, don’t own cars.
Providing other means of transportation would decrease the public’s dependence on cars, especially with the younger population that travels a lot within the city. Supporting Pacheco’s reasoning, these younger crowds note that e-scooters would allow them to dress appropriately for events that require dresses and suits without the hassle of ruining their garment while riding a bike or moped.
Seattle’s Pilot Program
Seattle is introducing a two-month pilot program that allows residents to rent electric scooters available throughout the city. The pilot program specifically addresses the safety hazards associated with dockless e-scooters. The intent is to introduce electric scooters into the city within a safe context that prevents a large increase in accidents from the start.
In the past, Seattle had not only banned scooter-sharing services from operating in the city but also prohibited user-owned electric scooters from traveling in bike lanes and sidewalks. However, the city is addressing this issue by working with their transit and bike oversight boards to determine when and where riders can use e-scooters and how fast they can travel.
Included in conversation is the question of helmet laws and what the regulations surrounding helmet use should be. This discussion comes from a valid perspective, as Portland’s pilot program discovered riders intentionally rode and parked on sidewalks, which caused problems for pedestrians.
New Scooter Laws in Seattle
With discussion about the pilot program underway, Seattle established a new set of motorized scooter laws to prevent future injuries when the program begins:
Where to Ride
- Riders can operate their electric scooters on roadways, on highway shoulders, and in alleys.
- Riders cannot operate on sidewalks, bike lanes, or other public walkways, or on any roadway where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph.
- Riders cannot operate an e-scooter on playgrounds or schoolyards.
- Riders who suffer from disability and use their e-scooter to increase mobility can operate their vehicle in any of the previously mentioned locations, except on roadways that exceed 35 mph.
- For those who intend on using e-scooters as a means of transportation, several guidelines and rules must be followed.
- Every electric scooter must have an adequate brake system, marked by its ability to effectively skid on dry, even pavement.
- Every scooter must have a muffler that does not create excess noise or possess a noise-suppressing device.
- Electric scooters must possess a light placed in the front of the vehicle if the rider intends to use it 30 minutes before or after sunset. This light must be visible within 500 feet of the e-scooter.
- Electric scooters must possess a red reflector placed in the back of the vehicle if the rider intends to use it 30 minutes before or after sunset. This reflector must be visible within 600 feet of the e-scooter.
- Individuals under 16 cannot operate a motorized scooter.
- Riders must obey the same traffic laws as bicycle riders and passenger cars.
- Riders must give right-of-way to pedestrians.
- All riders must wear a helmet.
- No riders can allow another individual to ride on the vehicle with them.
Seattle’s Department of Transportation can dictate specific speed-limit zones that riders must abide by. These locations differ depending on the situation. Several rules and regulations surround Seattle’s speed-limit zones:
- In the presence of congested pedestrian traffic, riders must adhere to a set speed limit.
- When no speed limit is set, there must be a differential in how fast a rider travels in reference to pedestrian speed.
- Riders must adhere to permanent speed-limited zones,
- Riders must not exceed 5 mph over the designated speed limit.
Electric scooters offer fantastic benefits in urban areas where residents travel often. With key safety guidelines in place, e-scooters thrust their riders into the future of affordable, environmentally-friendly transit.