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What Are Micromobility Devices and How Are They Classified in an Accident?

The emerging micromobility industry has found an increasing niche in cities across the country as a growing alternative for pedestrian commuters, short trips, or recreational riding.

Popular micromobility transportation companies such as Lime, Scoot, and Spin have developed relationships and contracts with cities, providing public access to these pay-per-ride devices.

In San Francisco, micromobility has become a common method of transportation with riders utilizing the city-contracted scooters for commutes to school, work, and trips around the city. Members of the public are utilizing independently purchased devices including electric scooters and bicycles, onewheels, and electric skateboards as technology continues to grow.

As the number of motorized devices on sidewalks and roads increases with popularization, city officials are implementing more regulations to protect riders, drivers, and pedestrians. But from a legal perspective, what happens when a rider is involved in an accident?

What is a Micromobility Device?

The Federal Highway Administration provides a broad definition of micromobility devices as “any small, low-speed, human-or-electric-powered transportation device, including bicycles, scooters, electric-assist bicycles, electric scooters (e-scooters), and other small, lightweight, wheeled conveyances.”

Are There Laws in Place for Micromobility?

California Micromobility laws are complex and vary greatly depending on the make and the individual features of the device including the number of wheels, handlebars, breaking systems, and speed ability. In 2018, California passed new laws that specifically pertain to electric scooters and other micromobility devices in order to protect riders, drivers, and pedestrians. These laws include:

  • Operators must be 18 years or older and hold a valid driver’s license

  • Micromobility devices must not be ridden on sidewalks
  • Devices should be ridden in a bike lane when available, or on the right-hand side of the road, next to the curb.
  • The driver should wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-compliant helmet at all times.
  • Scooters may not be operated on roads with a speed limit higher than 25 miles per hour unless there is a bike lane, in which case the scooter can only be ridden within the bike lane.
  • The driver may be the only passenger of a scooter.
  • Motorized scooters have a speed limit of 15 miles per hour.
  • Operating a “moped” scooter typically requires an M1 or M2 motorcycle license.

Campus-based organizations and universities such as UC Davis have implemented their own regulations regarding the use of micromobility devices on their grounds.

Micromobility Accidents

Micromobility accidents can happen for a wide range of reasons including an error on behalf of the device’s operator, the negligence of another driver on the road, or an issue with the maintenance or effectiveness of the device itself. Additionally, accidents can be caused by poorly maintained road surfaces that can potentially cause smaller devices to lose control.

Generally, in California, micromobility accidents are treated as bicycle accidents, which can lead to many complexities, including the role of the manufacturer or the ride-sharing company, if a public device is involved in an accident.

Who is at Fault in a Micromobility Accident?

California remains a comparable-fault state, meaning multiple parties can be found responsible for a percentage of negligence. In an accident that involves a car and a public ride-sharing scooter, there is a potential shared fault between the driver of the car, the scooter operator, as well as the scooter manufacturer and the scooter company. Common faults lying with the companies involve malfunctioning devices, improper safety features, and defects in the equipment itself.

When to Contact an Attorney

If you have been injured in a collision involving a micromobility vehicle, whether in a car, as a pedestrian, or as a result of a malfunctioning ride-share device, it is in your best interest to reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. If your injuries were caused by negligence, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, the resulting medical costs, as well as other damages.

Contact our San Francisco personal injury lawyers for a free, comprehensive review of your case and take the first steps toward recovery and peace of mind.