Where can you ride an electric scooter in the city? Are the bicycle paths open to these new vehicles? What does the law say? What do people do in practice? These frequently asked questions try to give you the right answers.

Whether we like it or not, the electric scooter is becoming an increasingly popular means of personal transportation in 2018. Inexpensive and sturdy models such as Xiaomi’s have popularized these machines with the general public and companies are even interested in getting into the difficult area of shared scooters. Lime launched in Paris on 22 June, while Bird has been offering its service since 31 July.

But the least we can say is that neither the law nor town planning had anticipated this boom. So, how do you ride an electric scooter without getting bothered? What are we allowed to do? What behaviours are tolerated?

In the first part, this guide will give you an overview of the current legislation. In one second, shorter, it will inform you about good practices and reflexes to have to use an electric scooter in town.

Where to ride on an electric scooter?

Users of scooters (with or without engine) are considered pedestrians. Under these conditions, they must respect the uses that are required for pedestrian travel: driving on the sidewalk, crossing at protected crossings, respecting traffic lights. Naturally, be very careful of other people walking around.

Article R412-34 of the Highway Code states that persons driving any small vehicle without an engine or driving a two-wheeled vehicle driven by hand are considered to be pedestrians. “The circulation of all two-wheeled vehicles driven by hand is tolerated on the roadway. In this case, drivers are obliged to observe the rules imposed on pedestrians,” it is stated.

It is strictly forbidden to use an electric scooter on roads open to public traffic.

It is strictly forbidden to use an electric scooter on roads open to public traffic. To put it plainly, you can’t move around on the pavement with cars. As for cycle tracks, they are in principle also forbidden: indeed, article R110-2 of the Highway Code states that cycle lanes and tracks are “exclusively reserved for two or three-wheel bicycles“.

And what is a cycle? A “vehicle having at least two wheels and propelled exclusively by the muscular energy of the persons on this vehicle, in particular by means of pedals or cranks“, indicates article R311-1 of the same code. A definition in which it is difficult to see that of the scooter, whether motorized or not.

How fast can we go?

The Public Service site specifies that traffic must be done at “moderate speed”, i.e. “at walking speed“: 6 km/h maximum. Pay attention to the speed of your vehicle: if it is capable of exceeding 25 km/h, a declaration to the Ministry of the Interior, the fitting of a number plate and the engraving of an identification number are steps to be carried out, according to a 2009 decree.

Vous verrez cette M365 partout.

You’ll see that M365 everywhere.

This rule applies to non-approved power-driven craft whose design speed may exceed 25 km/h, including scooters, the DGCCRF specifies. Note that some models have settings to limit the speed. Finally, according to the DGCCRF, “the sale of these devices is prohibited to minors“, when they are under 14 years of age.

What about protections, like the helmet?

No text imposes the wearing of any particular protection, according to the National Consumer Institute and the UFC-Que Choisir. Caution being the mother of safety, it’s probably best to wear safety gear, even if you’re losing style and your machine is moving at a moderate speed.

The helmet is obviously the most important protection, but you can also put on knee pads, elbow pads or gloves to limit impact and scratches in case of impact. The association Prévention Routière recommends their use and also advises you to be clearly visible to others, by having a high-visibility vest for example, or in any case clothes that allow you to find your way around very quickly.

Do we need insurance?

There are three scenarios to consider: insurance that covers your injuries if you fall off your scooter or are run over by a vehicle; insurance that covers the damage you may cause to others, for example by hitting a pedestrian or tearing off a rear-view mirror; insurance that takes care of the scooter itself, in the event of theft or damage.

The French Insurance Federation declares that “motorised personal transport vehicles are subject to the same obligation of civil liability insurance as motorised vehicles such as motorcycles or cars“. It is therefore necessary to take out this contract or check that the civil insurance currently held (most of the time it is integrated into the home insurance) covers this practice.

Attention aux bris de verre qui peuvent crever vos roues

Beware of broken glass that can puncture your wheels.

This insurance “covers the damage you could cause, for example, injuries to a pedestrian you hit or damage you cause to a vehicle (other personal mobility device, bicycle, car…)“. Check with your insurer that your contract covers these different situations and, if necessary, ask it to make the necessary adjustments.

The UFC-Que Choisir reports that some sellers tend to recommend that you keep a copy of your certificate with you, in case a police check is made.

Can the scooter be banned?

The Public Service site indicates that it is left to the discretion of each mayor to decide to authorize or prohibit the use of scooters and more generally any wheeled vehicle, whether motorized or not. These restrictions may apply “on all or part of the territory of the municipality, depending on local circumstances“, says the Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information.

If in doubt, it is best to turn to the mayor’s office of the municipalities in which you are likely to use your scooter to find out if a by-law has been passed to restrict this use.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

If you use your scooter directly on a public road or outside a crosswalk, you will be liable to a first-class fine of 4 euros, since the pedestrian scale applies. This fine may be increased and cost you 7 euros. The penalty is not accompanied by any point withdrawals, licence suspensions or vehicle immobilization.

The only exception, according to the Public Service site: if the pavement is in too bad condition to be walked on, a tolerance can be observed if you use the public highway while passing the impassable zone. But you can probably just as easily put your foot on the ground to cross it, walking with the scooter at your side, without having to get mixed up in traffic.

The same fine of 4 euros can be imposed on you if you do not obey a traffic light.

Dangerous behavior with a scooter? One year in prison and €15,000 fine

In a much more serious, but fortunately extremely rare case, you can be prosecuted and sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of EUR 15 000 if it is shown that you have behaved dangerously with your scooter, to the point of deliberately endangering the lives of others. This penalty is contained in article 223-1 of the Criminal Code. Repairs may then be considered.

Finally, check that you are well insured for electric scooter riding. The French Insurance Federation warns that driving a motor vehicle without insurance is an offence. The administrative penalty provided for in Article L 324-2 of the Highway Code can range from a few hundred to a few thousand euros, depending on the case, not to mention the civil damages.

How do you drive in practice?

If we summarize the previous paragraphs, we realize one thing: you can’t ride an electric scooter between 6 and 25 km/h in the city, which is the most obvious speed range for this type of transportation. Beyond 25 km/h, it’s forbidden everywhere. Beyond 6, it’s forbidden on the sidewalks… which is the only space allowed.

In practice, therefore, there is a certain tolerance on the part of users and public authorities. The law is bound to regulate the practice at one time or another, but before it does, be careful and keep in mind that no lane is reserved for you: it will make you more humble and less reckless on your scooter. It’s easy to give some advice:

  • Riding on bike lanes is nowadays the easiest, most pleasant and safest way for you. On the other hand, do not hinder the bikes that have priority. If they want to pass you, stop or squeeze right. In any case, respect the bikes that are at home and that already have to deal with the legal (buses) and illegal occupants of their lanes (scooters, motorbikes…). Remember to keep a safe distance between you and the bikes: you brake less well than they do.
  • If you have to climb on a sidewalk, slow down, be very careful of children and people from behind who cannot hear you coming and may change course at the last moment. Keep trajectories predictable for the people on the other side, so that they don’t doubt your intention. If you take a right-angle intersection on a sidewalk, take the outside of the sidewalk so you don’t startle someone.

In short, before the city is better adapted to the new individual mobility, do not take the pavement or cycle path for granted. It is up to you to show that you know how to respect the first users of these spaces, not for them to get used to you. We have been driving with these principles in mind for more than two years and we have had no problems.

Guide completed by Julien Cadot, scooter rider.