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Use e-scooters in Oregon? You should read this legal guide

Posted by on July 8th, 2019 at 12:20 pm

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re a low-car Portlander, you understand that driving around the city is often more trouble than it’s worth. You probably also find shared electric scooters to be a useful addition to the mobility mix. But where do these vehicles fit into the rules of the road?

Now there’s a handy new guide from a local law firm that lays it all out.

Our friends at Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost have released, Oregon E-Scooter Rights: A Legal Guide for Electric Scooter Users (PDF). This is the fifth booklet from TCN&F since their popular Pedal Power cycling guide was published in 2000.

Citing the large number of complaints about e-scooters filed with the City of Portland following the first pilot program last summer, TCN&F says in the guide’s introduction, “e-scooters are getting a mixed reception from the populace.” One reason for that might be confusion over laws. “It is somewhat ironic that the e-scooter,” say guide authors Cynthia Newton, Chris Thomas, Jim Coon and Ray Thomas, “with its simplicity of operation and ease of use is accompanied by a more restrictive set of legal rules than bicycles, e-bikes, non-powered scooters, roller blades and skateboards.”

For example, scooter users are prohibited from riding on sidewalks citywide whereas bicycle riders can ride them anywhere outside of a relatively small no-go zone in the central city.

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Here’s what the guide says about scooters and sidewalks:

E-Scooters are prohibited on sidewalks in Oregon except to get across the sidewalk from the roadway to or from an adjacent property… And the e-scooter rider must yield the right of way to pedestrians and provide an audible signal before overtaking and passing… When entering traffic from the sidewalk to the roadway the e-scooter rider is prohibited from moving into traffic that is “so close as to constitute an immediate hazard” which means the rider is required to ease into traffic and not ride out in front of approaching vehicles. E-scooters must be walked, not ridden, in the crosswalk…

And did you know Oregon’s “mandatory sidepath law” is even more restrictive for scooter users than bicycle users?

Oregon has what is referred to as a mandatory sidepath law which means that certain user groups must use a bike lane or path if one is available (ORS 814.514). There are no exceptions to this rule for e-scooters as there are for bicycles and e-bikes… This law requires that e-scooter riders use an available bike lane or path if one “is adjacent to or near the roadway”.

When it comes to the controversial policy of prohibiting scooters from Portland Parks facilities, the guide points out that there’s no exception in the law for people with disabilities. “Indeed, Portland law excludes non-disabled e-scooter use on some of the city’s most convenient, safe, and scenic car-free corridors,” including the Springwater Corridor, Eastbank Esplanade, Waterfront Park, Peninsula Crossing Trail, and so on.

The guide also has a very helpful section on insurance requirements as well as advice on what to do if you’re involved in a scooter crash.

Read the new guide below (download PDF here)…

Oregon-E-Scooter-Rights-A-Legal-Guide-for-Electric-Scooter-Riders

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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19 Comments
  • Avatar
    David Hampsten July 8, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Since the I-84 and I-205 paths are ODOT rather than city parks, are they legally considered “side paths”?

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    Gabriel Amadeus Tiller July 8, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    “It is somewhat ironic that the e-scooter,” say guide authors Cynthia Newton, Chris Thomas, Jim Coon and Ray Thomas, “with its simplicity of operation and ease of use is accompanied by a more restrictive set of legal rules than bicycles, e-bikes, non-powered scooters, roller blades and skateboards.”

    I’d use a different word than ironic…

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    Johnnie Metso July 8, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    How you get there is as important as where you intend to go.

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      jered July 9, 2019 at 9:28 am

      not all who wander are lost.

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  • Rivelo
    Rivelo July 8, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    The majority of people I’ve seen riding e-scooters in Portland don’t even seem to pay attention to — let alone follow — the few basic rules you are required to “agree” to when activating the app for the first ride.

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      David Hampsten July 8, 2019 at 7:25 pm

      How do they compare with pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers of those infernal combustion machines? Better, as bad, or worse? As a pedestrian, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an instruction manual on the app on how to be a pedestrian – presumably my parents were supposed to teach me, but I’m sure I was corrupted by my brothers. I’ve never read the instruction manuals for the app from my bike manufacturers, though I may still have one or two paper copies lying around. I’m afraid I don’t have an app on how to use the car I don’t have.

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        KTaylor July 14, 2019 at 2:39 pm

        It’s true–most Americans are bad at respectfully sharing public space and have become terrible at navigating it no matter what means they are using to travel, including (maybe especially) walking. We’re like a bunch of babies. That’s why adding new modes (like scooters) to city streets and sidewalks has been such a mess. If a dense future is supposed to be our salvation, these habits need to be addressed. I just doubt that pamphlets are the way to do it.

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    Buzz July 8, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    sounds like a fustercluck to me….

    But what bothers me the most about the e-scooters is that they block sidewalks all over town when they are parked.

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      Dan A July 9, 2019 at 8:31 am

      I’m more bothered by cars blocking visibility at intersections by being parked up to the corners. E-scooters on sidewalks have yet to become a danger for me.

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        B. Carfree July 9, 2019 at 4:41 pm

        Even when the “cars” aren’t parked all the way up to the intersection they are too tall to see over. I’m far from short, but allowing SUV’s, vans and pick-ups to park on city streets is silly dangerous.

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          CaptainKarma July 10, 2019 at 8:00 am

          In regards to parking up to and including the corner: the law states that no vehicle over 6 ft tall may be parked that near the intersection. Call it in. Also, no vehicle can park past the traffic control device or sign, nor onto the pedestrian crosswalk, or in such a way as to block the view of any traffic sign or device. Call it in.

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        Buzz July 10, 2019 at 8:58 pm

        except that this thread is about scooters and not motorists that park their oversized vehicles too close to intersections?!?!?!

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    Bob Weinstein July 8, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    I think the insurance section in the guide needs some review, and possible revision. I have been advised by people in the insurance industry that policies like homeowner’s insurance- which typically do extend to bicycles- provide no coverage for scooter riders. And scooter riders’ auto policies do not cover a scooter, so that if a car is hit the car owner has the privilege of having his/her policy cover repairs, subject to the deductible. The same applies to personal injury.

    Essentially, the scooter companies have found a way to transfer almost all financial risk resulting from scooter riding from themselves. If you or your car are hit, you can try to take the scooter rider to court for damages- a very expensive proposition.

    The bottom line is that, unlike bicycles, the e-scooter program has added untrained and uninsured riders to the city’s streets- and sidewalks.

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    Matt S. July 9, 2019 at 5:34 am

    Some think its Mad Max in Portland with people wearing their flip flops and riding cute adorable scooters on the sidewalks…

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      Mike Quigley July 9, 2019 at 5:54 am

      If it was Mad Max the scooters would be souped up and covered with spikes. Hey! Scooters next generation?

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    Jim Lee July 9, 2019 at 7:01 am

    But can they read?

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      Middle of The Road Guy July 9, 2019 at 10:26 am

      And why are there no Braille copies of the instructions?

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    bikeninja July 9, 2019 at 10:43 am

    From what I can see most scooter users must be very carefully reading all these rules, because that is the only way they could choose to violate everyone of them all the time. If they were totally ignorant of them it seems they would occasionally ride their electric steeds in a legal way just due to randomness. The current level of noncompliance seems too perfect to be chance.

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