Frequently Asked Questions - How Are Electric Scooters Impacting Florida?
You have likely seen them lined up on a street corner, parked by local hotspots, strewn on the front of a neighbor’s yard or seemingly abandoned on the side of the road. Electric motorized scooters are a new popular mode of transportation in Florida. Several companies have begun vying for Floridians business. Companies like Bird, Lime, Uber, Spin, Skip, and Lyft all offer electric motorized scooter (E-scooter) sharing systems. These services allow Floridians to rent one of the thousands of electric scooters available all over Florida with just a few clicks on their smartphone.
In June of 2019 Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 453 which paved the way for electric scooter companies to operate in Florida. The bill granted rights and applied duties to the operator of an electric scooter similar to those of a bicycle rider. The bill also allowed Florida local governments to exercise their regulatory authority in regard to the operation of electric scooters on streets, highways, and sidewalks within their jurisdiction. The bill also excluded electric scooters from compliance with vehicle registration, licensing, and insurance requirements. Additionally, I. t allowed for the operation of electric scooters without a valid driver license. Essentially, the passage of HB 453 made the operation of electric scooters legal in Florida but allowed for further regulation of the operation of electric scooters by local governments.
Electric scooters have become a popular, fast, and eco-friendly transportation option in Florida. Most electric scooter sharing companies provide electric scooters powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The electric scooters found throughout Florida can be charged quickly, often in ordinary wall outlets found in your home. The carbon-free electric scooters are convenient and may be more environmentally friendly than most cars. Although they may be better for the environment than the average car, other forms of transportation such as walking, bicycling, and even public transportation may in fact be better for the environment. The manufacturing, transportation, and maintenance of electric scooters all contribute to global emissions.
The ease of use has made electric scooters extremely popular in busy cities. Residents and tourists can quickly rent a scooter to get across town. In Florida, electric scooter rentals have seen a large demand in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa. Demand all across Florida, however, continues to grow. Electric scooters can be found by using one of the many electric scooter sharing companies’ smartphone apps. When the app is opened it helps locate an electric scooter close to the user, unlocks the scooter, and starts the rental period. When the rider is finished, the app can then end the rental and lock the scooter.
The increase in electric scooter usage has revealed numerous issues which still need to be addressed by the state or local government. The law signed by the governor granted electric scooter riders the same rights and responsibilities as bicyclists. Many park and bike trails, however, were not created with electric scooters in mind. Many trails expressly prohibit motor vehicles but electric scooters, per the state legislature, would not fall in that category. Most cyclists average between 10-15 miles per hour. A cyclist is also limited by their own endurance and terrain. In contrast, most electric scooters available through rideshare companies, such as Bird and Uber, can maintain a speed of 15 miles per hour or greater through bike trails and parks. These speeds can be maintained for the entire duration of the lithium-ion battery charge. The battery capacity of the electric scooters currently available to rent allows them to travel for 15 miles or more before needing to recharge. Additionally, since these scooters are so readily available a fully charged scooter can often be rented immediately if the currently rented electric scooter’s battery runs low. The influx of electric scooters on trails and sidewalks previously only occupied by pedestrians or cyclists has caused concern in cities where the electric scooters have become popular. As roads, trails, and parks become more crowded with electric scooters the rate of collisions and accidents increase. Local governments may impose additional restrictions on the use of electric scooters if their use and popularity continue to increase.
Local governments may also need to address if their city’s infrastructure is safe for the influx of electric scooter riders. The law signed by governor Desantis allows electric scooters to be ridden on sidewalks, bike lanes, and roadways just like a bicycle. As such, electric scooter riders are expected to follow traffic safety laws. Scooter riders must obey traffic signals and maintain the same level of care as the driver of a motor vehicle or bicycle rider. Unfortunately, not all roadways were constructed with electric scooter riders in mind. As such, some areas may not currently be properly designed to adequately handle an influx of electric scooter riders. Overcrowded roadways and bike paths may lead to an increase in injuries to both scooter riders and anyone else who shares the same lanes of travel.
Electric scooter collisions can result in serious and lifechanging injuries. Florida law does not require an electric scooter rider to wear a helmet as longer as the E-scooter cannot travel faster than 20 miles per hour. Additionally, while electric scooter rental companies often recommend wearing a helmet, it is not required to complete the rental process. As a result, the vast majority of electric scooter rental users are not wearing a helmet while operating the scooter on the road. Recent studies suggest that over a third of all scooter related injuries that required emergency room treatment involved a head injury.
Electric scooters are being introduced in more and more cities across Florida. As additional data becomes available on the safety of electric scooter use, and potential problems, laws are likely to change. Laws and regulations regarding scooter use already vary from county to county and city to city. Therefore, if you have been injured while using an electric scooter, or if you were injured by a negligent electric scooter rider, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An attorney familiar with Florida electric scooter laws will be able to advise you of your rights and assist you in pursuing compensation for your injuries.