With the growth of electric scooters in Denver and other Colorado cities comes laws regulating their use on streets, sidewalks and other roadways. These statutes and ordinances apply to riders on personally owned scooters and rentals like Bird and Lime scooters. Riders who ignore these laws risk tickets but also put themselves in danger of injuries due to collisions with cars, other scooters, bikes and pedestrians. Knowing the Colorado electric scooter laws will help you avoid accidents and injuries. If you suffer injuries in a scooter accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Front Range Injury Attorneys.
Why Colorado has laws for electric scooters?
According to the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), there are more than 600,000 electric scooter riders each month in Denver alone. With so many electric scooters on the road, there is a high likelihood of confusion leading to accidents and injuries without laws regulating the shared space. Not only do scooter riders need to know how to safely operate an e-scooter, but cars, pedestrians, motorcycles and bicyclists also need to know what to expect from the vehicles around them.
By following Colorado scooter laws and operating scooters safely, you reduce the likelihood of injuries to yourself and others. When a scooter gets into an accident with a car or other motor vehicle, the scooter rider is more likely to suffer severe injuries. Common scooter accident injuries include head injuries and broken bones. These injuries can result in significant harm and even permanent changes to your well-being.
What laws apply to electric scooters in Colorado?
In 2019 the Colorado legislature reclassified electric scooters. Previously most of what we consider electric scooters (like the Lime and Bird scooters) were classified as “toy vehicles” which made them subject to very little regulation. With the 2019 reclassification, e-scooters moved into the “vehicles” definition along with bicycles and other non-motorized or low powered scooters.
Specifically, most scooters fall into a new classification as “low powered scooter” under Colorado law. Scooters in this classification include:
- If powered by internal combustion, a cylinder capacity of 50cc or less; or
- If electric, a wattage not exceeding 4476 watts.
- Has three or fewer wheels
- No manual clutch
A vehicle with a motor or engine with greater power, a manual clutch, or four wheels is classified as a motor vehicle.
Electric scooters that do not exceed 20mph fall under the same classification as electric bicycles. These do not require registration or insurance. Many Bird and Lime-type e-scooters fall into this classification.
Electric scooters within the low powered scooter include the majority of e-scooters in Denver and other Colorado cities. These scooters are subject to specific laws for low powered scooters but also fall under the laws for all other modes of transportation classified as vehicles. These include state and city traffic safety laws. When riding on roads, e-scooter riders must observe all traffic signs and rules. Additionally, e-scooter riders are subject to criminal laws for operating a vehicle on public roads. These include tickets for failing to yield the right of way and even DUI laws apply to scooters.
Do you have to wear a helmet while riding an e-scooter?
In Colorado, most riders do not have to wear a helmet. If you ride a low powered scooter and you are 18 or older, helmet use is voluntary. Any rider under 18 must wear a DOT approved helmet.
It is a good idea to wear a helmet even if legally it is a choice. Helmets on scooters, bicycles and motorcycles greatly reduce the likelihood and severity of head injuries. In an accident versus a car, you are likely to face serious brain injury.
Do you have to register an electric scooter in Colorado?
If you own a low powered electric scooter that you ride in public roadways, you must register it. Registration is $5.85 for a three year period. Of course, if you only ride rental e-scooters from Lime or Bird, you do not have to register anything. Lime or Bird handles registration of their vehicles.
Do you have to carry insurance to ride an electric scooter?
Colorado does not require riders to carry insurance for injuries or property damage. If you own a low power scooter, you must obtain insurance on it as a condition of registration. The insurance liability coverage minimums for e-scooters is the same as cars and other motor vehicles. You must carry at least:
- $25,000 per accident/per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident/total bodily injury claims
- $15,000 per accident/total property damage claims
Riders on rented Bird or Lime scooters do not have to acquire liability coverage because coverage follows the vehicle.
Can you ride an e-scooter on Colorado roads and streets?
Yes, you can ride an e-scooter on Colorado roads and streets. The exception is you may not ride on interstate highways like Interstate 25 and I-70.
Generally, the same rules apply to riding bicycles on the street. When there are no bike lanes, you can occupy a normal lane. It is a good idea to keep to the side to avoid a car hitting you from behind. Cars and other motor vehicles do not always watch for e-scooter riders in the middle of a lane.
You must follow all traffic rules and signage for any road or street where you ride.
Are electric scooters allowed to ride bike lanes in Denver or other cities?
Yes, you may ride an electric scooter in bike lanes in Colorado. Scooters do not have preference over bikes in the bicycle lane. They must share the lane and follow the traffic rules for bike lanes.
Are electric scooters allowed on sidewalks?
Under the 2019 reclassification, electric scooters are allowed to ride on sidewalks under specific circumstances. Cities may further limit riding on sidewalks.
Under the Colorado law, you may ride on a sidewalk if:
- If the speed limit of the street is over 30mph, you may ride on the sidewalk.
- When riding on the sidewalk, you may not ride faster than 6mph.
- You can ride on the sidewalk when it is part of a bike lane.
- You can ride on the sidewalk while parking a scooter on the sidewalk.
Denver went an additional step and banned riding on sidewalks regardless of street speed unless it is part of a bike lane or while parking. Electric scooters are also banned entirely from specific areas, including the 16th Street Mall.
What laws apply if I am injured in a scooter accident?
Generally, the same personal injury laws apply if you are injured in a scooter accident. You can pursue another person or entity for your injuries if that person or entity caused your injuries through negligent or intentional acts. If you cause your injuries by neglecting to follow the traffic laws and scooter laws, you will have to rely on your own insurance coverage to take care of yourself. If you cause injuries to another person, such as abandoning an e-scooter in a sidewalk, you may be liable for their injuries.
Often scooter riders suffer injuries in accidents. In a collision between a scooter and any motor vehicle, the scooter rider is exposed to the impact force and often collides with the other vehicle and the street. (See this post for what to do after a scooter accident.)
If you are injured in a scooter accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you have the right to pursue compensation for your injuries and economic losses. Contact our Denver scooter accident attorneys for a free case review.