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Where Can I Ride Electric Scooters in Columbus, Ohio?

Post By Corey Heit

At the time I’m posting this update, general Ohio scooter laws remain unwritten. Elected officials in the state’s capital city, however, have made it clear that electric scooters, like bicycles, must remain off the sidewalk in order to protect pedestrians. A local ordinance that has the effect of a criminal statute restricts e-scooter riders to roads, bike lanes, and designated mixed-use paths in parks.

Stay Off Sidewalks for Safety

Starting in mid-October 2019, riding an e-scooter like one you can rent by using a Bird or Lime app on the sidewalk in Columbus, Ohio, will be treated as a minor misdemeanor. This makes the offense similar to disturbing the peace or driving a little over the speed limit. The penalty will be a fine of no more than $150 plus administrative fees.

Columbus City Columbus members put the new restriction on where you can ride e-scooters in place shortly after the mayor issue an emergency executive order. The legal responses were deemed necessary because riding e-scooters on sidewalks has become a serious risk for injuries to riders and pedestrians. Violating the rule and causing a crash that injures a pedestrian will make the scooter rider liable for settling personal injury claims.

Precise e-scooter crash statistics for Columbus are not available. A nationwide review of police reports and emergency room records conducted Consumer Reports revealed that as of July 2019, “At least eight people in the U.S. have died while using a rentable e-scooter since the fall of 2017.” Other analyzes show that thousands of Americans have been involved in e-scooter crashes and gone to hospitals with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones and traumatic brain injuries.

Not Just a Matter of Riding on Sidewalks

The Columbus e-scooter ordinance also imposes a 20 mph speed limit on scooter riders, bans the devices from the interstate, prohibits carrying passengers, and makes riding while wearing headphones or earphones a ticketable offense. Other restrictions may be coming, as well.

Asked about regulating rentable e-scooters like the Bird and Lime devices, a city official told the Columbus Dispatch on Sept. 24, 2019, “This is a newer industry and we’re reacting to as best we can. We don’t feel we’ve established all the best practices yet because the industry has not been around very long,”

Ohio-wide Electric Scooter Laws Are Still Being Developed

During the sping of 2019, state lawmakers included language in a two-year transportation funding law that would have set a maximum e-scooter speed limit of 15 mph, required e-scooter riders to yield right of way to pedestrians, and placed a legal duty on e-scooter riders to announce when they were approaching and passing slower-moving pedestrians. Those proposals did not survive into the final version of the legislation bill, but calls to adopt similar statewide rules continue.

For now, each Ohio city sets its own rules for riding e-scooters. The basics in Columbus are

  • Stay off the sidewalk;
  • Stay on surface roads and, where available, in bike lanes;
  • Stay one to a scooter; and
  • Stay under 20 mph.

As a personal injury lawyer based in Westerville, OH, and taking cases all throughout Franklin County, Corey Heit may be able to help you if you get hurt in an e-scooter crash. You can schedule a free consultion online or call Corey directly at (614) 898-5300.

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