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A motorized scooter is a stand-up scooter powered (mainly in the past) by a small utility internal combustion engine or, in case of e-scooter, by a small electric motor directly built in the front or the rear wheel (HUB Motor). Classified as a form of micro-mobility, these scooters are generally designed with a large deck in the center on which the rider stands. The first motorized scooter was manufactured by Autoped beginning in 1915.
Recently, electric kick scooters (e-scooters) have grown in popularity with the introduction of scooter-sharing systems that use apps allowing users to rent the scooters by the minute.
Electric kick scooters have generally surpassed gas-engined scooters in popularity since 2000. They usually have two hard small wheels, with a foldable chassis, usually aluminum. Some kick scooters have three or four wheels, or are made of plastic, or have dual motors, or do not fold. High performance trickster scooters made for adults have a much larger front wheel. Electric kick scooters differ from mobility scooters in that they also allow human propulsion, mount disk brakes, use Hub Motors (allowing Regenerative Braking) and thus have no gears. Range typically varies from 5 to 50 km (3 to 31 mi), and maximum speed is around 30 km/h (19 mph).
In 2017, some bicycle-sharing companies such as Lime, and some scooter-only companies, like Bird, began offering dockless electric kick scooter sharing services. This segment of the micro-mobility market made large inroads in 2018, with numerous dockless electric scooters appearing in major cities worldwide, sometimes in controversial and contentious unsanctioned roll-outs, such as in San Francisco. In the meanwhile, it becomes more important for electric kick scooter riders to understand the rules when they are on the road.
In the United States, motorized scooters are not street legal, as they cannot be tagged, titled, insured, and do not meet federal requirements for lights or mirrors. Particular localities may have further ordinances that limit the use of motorized scooters. The top speed of the average motorized scooter is around 20 miles per hour (32 km/h). Due to their small wheels, motorized scooters are not typically safe for street use as even the smallest bumps can cause an accident.
California, for example, requires that a person riding a motorized scooter on a street be 16 years of age or older, have a valid driver's license, be wearing a bicycle helmet, have no passengers, and otherwise follow the same rules of the road the same as cars do. The motorized scooter must have brakes, may not have handlebars raised above the operator's shoulders, and if ridden at night must have a headlight, a taillight, and side reflectors. A motorized scooter may not be operated on sidewalks or on streets if the posted speed limit is over 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) unless in a Class II bicycle lane.
Michigan laws treat motorized scooters similarly to bicycles. They are typically allowed on sidewalks, bike lanes, and roads.
In Washington, D.C., motorized scooters are classified as Personal Mobility Devices, and are therefore not considered motor vehicles. This means there is no inspection, license, insurance, or registration required. Additionally, this means that motorized scooters are allowed on the sidewalks, and helmets are not required.
In Atlanta, motorized scooters are considered Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices, meaning they can be used on sidewalks and highways where the speed limit is at most 35 miles per hour (56 km/h), or in the bike lane. The law also specifies that users of Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices, including motorized scooter riders, "have the same rights and duties as prescribed for pedestrians".
Scooter sharing companies have rules for operation printed on both the scooter and in the app, which includes instructions to not ride on the sidewalk. Given that the laws regarding motorized scooters vary from state to state, the scooter sharing instructions can differ from the local law.
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