E-Scooter Riders May No Longer Worry About Violating Helmet Laws

California stopped requiring riders to wear helmets on motorized scooters but still very much prohibits riding on the sidewalk.

A Skip scooter rider uses the street, not sidewalk. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The initial chaos of electric scooters has died down since the city stepped in with a pilot program but, thanks to a new California law that no longer requires motorized scooters riders to wear helmets, safety could remain an issue.

Gov. Jerry Brown approved the law in September, adding to the pile of new laws that took effect Jan. 1.  For the many e-scooter riders 18 years or older seen without helmets, it merely codifies that behavior — and convenience for scooter companies reluctant to provide helmets — into law.

The new law also limits motorized scooters to 15 miles per hour and unless it’s on a bike lane, it’s not allowed on highways with a speed limit of more than 25 miles per hour. 

But Skip, one of two companies approved by the city, is forging ahead with a helmet requirement and is in the process of giving away 50,000 helmets for free

“At Skip, we want all of our riders to be safe and considerate when riding,” says a Skip spokesperson. “The rules of the road are available in our app and are printed on every scooter, including our requirement that riders wear helmets, regardless of whether it’s required by law.”

Scoot, the second company approved for the city’s pilot program, also allows Bay Area users to order a free helmet — shipping not included. The company did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication but in a November Medium post, founder and CEO Michael Keating listed “no helmets” as an example of some Scoot Kick riders behaving dangerously.

Bird may be blocked out of San Francisco but it sponsored the bill to get rid of helmet laws and still operates nearby in Oakland and San Jose, CNET reported. Lime — which extends to Alameda, El Cerrito, Oakland, San Mateo, South San Francisco, and Walnut Creek — launched an ad campaign around safety following a scooter recall and is giving out 250,000 helmets.

It’s worth noting that riding motorized scooters on sidewalks is still very illegal, as is laying it down on a sidewalk in a way that blocks pedestrian traffic and operating them without a valid driver’s license or instruction permit.

Riders are also prohibited from adding a passenger, attaching themselves in any way to another vehicle, or using the scooters without any hands.

Still legal but unwelcomed: Bragging that you can ride your scooter with no handlebars.

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