Are electric skateboards legal?

The first question most people ask when they’re considering buying or building an electric skateboard is: “Are those things even legal?” 

It’s not as simple a question as it sounds. The legality of e-boards is often dependent on where they’re being ridden, how fast that particular board can move, and what kind of safety gear the rider is wearing.

The answer also depends on what country you’re in; naturally, different countries have differing laws about electric skateboards. Before you buy or build your board, make sure that you’re familiar with all the local laws pertaining to their use. 

This guide will give an overview of the laws about electric skateboard usage in several countries, but it’s always advisable to double check with the local authorities if you have any doubts.

At a glance

 

Are electric skateboards legal infographic

United States of America

In the United States, there is no federal law either permitting or limiting the use of electric skateboards. Each State is allowed to regulate their use as they see fit. It should be noted that each municipality can still regulate them further, so once you’re familiar with state laws you still need to check with your city. Here’s how some States have chosen to regulate e-boards:

Are electric skateboards legal in Texas?

Texas regulates electric skateboards the same way it regulates bicycles and mopeds

It’s the exact same law; they’re officially classified as “Motor-Assisted Scooters”, although they could also fall under the definition of “neighborhood electric vehicles” and “electric personal assistive mobility devices,” depending on how you interpret the definitions of each of those. Generally, “motor-assisted scooters” will be the definition you want to focus on. 

Under these regulations in Texas, an electric skateboard can only be operated on a street or highway where the speed limit is 35mph or less. You can cross a street at an intersection that has a higher speed limit, just don’t go down it.

While that will prevent you from riding in most streets, you are allowed to ride your board in the bicycle lane on any street no matter the speed limit. You can also ride on any sidewalk. However, that’s the state law. Every county and every city or town in the state is allowed to prohibit or limit the use of electric skateboards. They can make any law more strict, the only thing they can’t do is make the law less strict.

For example, a county or city might decide it wants to prohibit the use of electric boards on all streets, even those with a speed limit of 35mph or less. They can do that; there’s a specific provision in the law that allows them to. If, however, they wanted to remove the restrictions on speed limit and allow you to ride your board right down the middle of a street with a 50mph speed limit, they can’t. Again, it always pays to check the county and city regulations. Your city might have stricter limits on the usage of electric boards than the state does.

Because electric boards are subject to the same regulations as bicycles, they also have to meet the same safety requirements. That means you can’t ride at night; a bicycle has places where you can attach the lamps required by law to make your bike visible in the dark. A board doesn’t, which means it’s impossible for an electric skateboard to meet the safety requirements for night riding. 

There don’t appear to be any state laws in Texas governing the sort of safety gear that a rider is required to wear. Your county or city might have such a law on the books, though. And, really, why wouldn’t you at least wear a helmet?

Are electric skateboards legal in California?

The relevant law in California is Assembly Bill 604

First, you should understand that motorized skateboards and electrically motorized skateboards are, legally, two different things. California has a law banning motorized boards that dates back to the 70s when people were slapping gas engines on skateboards.

The first thing the California law mentions is that it is prohibited to operate an electric skateboard while intoxicated. Oddly, this is not prohibited at the State level in Texas, so if you want to get blasted and hop on your board for a joy ride, go to Texas (please, don’t actually do that. It is a seriously terrible idea). 

California defines an electrically motorized board as “any wheeled device that has a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding that is not greater than 60 inches deep and 18 inches wide, is designed to transport only one person, and has an electric propulsion system averaging less than 1,000 watts,” and cannot exceed 20 miles per hour on a paved level service. Note that the speed limit in that part of the law is not a regulation, it’s a definition. If you’ve got a board that can go faster than that, it’s not legally an electrically motorized board in California and is not subject to any of these regulations. In the highly unlikely event that your board can move faster than that, don’t push your luck; follow the law.

You’re prohibited from riding your boards at public schools, state universities and colleges, state parks, county parks, and airports. The list of places you can’t ride your board is longer than that, but these are the only places most of you are likely to need to know about.

To ride an electric board in California, you have to be 16 or older. You’re also required to wear a helmet.

To ride your board at night, you have to be equipped with a white lamp that illuminates the road in front of you and is visible from 300 feet away. You’ll also need a red reflector on the red that is visible from 500 feet away, and white or yellow reflectors on the sides that are visible from 200 feet away. This would be somewhat difficult to do; a board is so low to the ground that attaching lamps and reflectors to the deck doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have enough visibility. If you’re set on riding at night, test your equipment first to make sure it’s compliant with the law.

Much like Texas, California prohibits the use of electric boards on roads with speed limits over 35 miles per hour, unless you stay within the bike lane at all times. Unlike Texas, California has placed a speed limit requirement on electric boards: you cannot operate an electric skateboard at speeds over 15 miles per hour. There’s an additional provision in the bill that prohibits you from operating your board at a speed “greater than is reasonable”, taking into consideration the weather and the number of pedestrians around. In other words, you can’t exceed 15 miles per hour, and you’d better slow down a lot more if it’s raining or there are people around.

As in the Texas bill, the California bill specifically gives local authorities the right to place additional restrictions on the usage of electric skateboards. These restrictions do not apply to state highways, but it’s not clear how you would even get your board on to a state highway of the city you lived in chose to ban them altogether. 

Are electric skateboards legal in Florida?

Florida’s laws are stricter. Technically, in Florida it’s illegal to use an electric skateboard on public property, period.

A lot of people point a section in the state transportation code allowing the use of “Electronic Personal Assistive Mobility Devices”, but that part of the code is specifically for Segways. It defines EPAMD’s clearly as “any self-balancing, two-nontandem-wheeled device”. That’s not a skateboard, and there’s really no other way to interpret that definition. 

To clarify, it isn’t illegal to own an electric skateboard in Florida, it’s illegal to use it in public; that’s because of how an electric skateboard is legally classified there.

Florida defines a motor vehicle as “an automobile, motorcycle, truck, trailer, semitrailer, truck tractor and semitrailer combination, or any other vehicle operated on the roads of this state, used to transport persons or property, and propelled by power other than muscular power.” That definition certainly includes electric skateboards.

All motor vehicles in Florida must be registered to be legally operated, and there’s no way to register a skateboard. So, you can’t ride your electric skateboard on the road. You also can’t ride it on the sidewalk, or in a bicycle lane or bike path. It’s illegal to operate any vehicle on sidewalks and bike paths that aren’t propelled entirely by human power. 

The only place you can legally ride an electric skateboard in Florida is on private property, i.e. your own driveway or a gated community. 

That said, some people report that the authorities don’t enforce the law when they see electric boards. It seems like some Police Departments have decided that e-boards are perfectly fine. Boards aren’t explicitly banned in Florida, it’s just that the state government hasn’t quite caught up with new developments in personal transportation yet, so sometimes the local police just doesn’t worry about it. Don’t take that as an invitation to ride, though. It’s still totally illegal. If you ride an electric skateboard on public property in Florida, you do so at your own risk.

California, Florida, and Texas are the states with the most online searches for electric skateboard laws, so I won’t go into any more state laws here. Just know that most other areas seem to either follow the footsteps of Texas and California, with similar regulations, or they’re like Florida and classify e-boards as motor vehicles but have no way for you to register them. Make sure you know your local laws, and check forums on Reddit and eSk8 Builder to see what other people in your area have to say about the way the laws are enforced.

Are electric skateboards legal in UK?

The UK is famous for strict laws about Segways and hover boards, but what about electric skateboards?

The law there concerning e-boards is confusing. That’s largely because the law in question is the Highway Act of 1835 and it explicitly names horses, asses, sheep, mules, and swine as being prohibited from footpaths and causeways. It also prohibits the use of carriages on footpaths. They seem to be interpreting “carriage” in the modern world to include electric skateboards along with Segways and hover boards. 

The Highway Act of 1835 is the recognized law in England and Wales. Scotland uses the much more modern Roads Act of 1984 which, even though its 150 years newer, actually prohibits almost exactly the same things. In both cases the specific act that’s banned is the driving or riding of animals or vehicles on footpaths, and this is interpreted to include electric skateboards. 

There is some confusion among the public as to whether electric skateboards are regulated like hover boards or lumped with electric bikes, which are legal. It’s very clear from the legal definition of electric bikes, however, that an electric skateboard is different. In the UK, an electric bike by definition has pedals. A skateboard has no pedals, and is therefore not an electric bike. Electric skateboards are regulated the same as hover boards and Segways. That is to say, they are illegal on public property in the UK. 

The good news for British e-board enthusiasts is that many places don’t seem to enforce these regulations strictly, and even in London it’s not uncommon to see people riding down the sidewalks on their e-boards. As in Florida, you ride at your own risk. Electric skateboards are illegal, and riders are subject to a fine and having their board confiscated if caught.

The UK government is currently looking into different ways to regulate the use of electric skateboards, so it’s possible that in the near future they’ll have more specific regulations like California and Texas. 

Are electric skateboards legal in Canada?

As in the United States, there doesn’t appear to be any nationwide laws in Canada either permitting or limiting the use of electric skateboards. Each province is free to regulate e-boards as they wish. 

Furthermore, just as in the US and the UK, each municipality is also allowed to add additional regulations on their use.

The province of British Columbia has classified them as illegal for road use; they don’t meet the legal safety standards for road use, and therefore they cannot be insured

The enforcement of that law is not universal, something which seems to be common in every place that outlaws the use of electric skateboards. One member of the Vancouver police force is on record stating that they don’t ticket people using them unless they’re being reckless and endangering the public.

Some riders try to get around this by riding their boards in the bicycle lanes, but this is a legal gray area. 

It seems that most provinces in Canada don’t have specific regulations regarding electric skateboards. If you’re concerned about the legality of riding one, a good idea is to check on the local laws about hover boards or Solowheels. You and I know that these are very different devices, but often in places without specific e-board regulations, they get lumped together because they do function in a similar way and they’re used for similar purposes. In Canada, it’s a safe bet that your electric skateboard won’t qualify as a motor vehicle, which makes it uninsurable, and therefore illegal for road use. Weirdly, many places consider them “motorized vehicles”, which makes them illegal for use on sidewalks, as well. This is confusing, because there’s a fuzzy legal difference between “motorized vehicle” and “motor vehicle.” This distinction, though, is made at the city level, not the provincial level.

Each municipality is free to decide if it will allow electric skateboards on its sidewalks. Toronto doesn’t, but others might be fine with it. That information is not always easily accessible online, so you might need to contact your local government directly. 

Are electric skateboards legal in Australia?

Australia’s Road Rules categorize electric skateboards as “wheeled recreational devices.” Like the legal code in Canada and the UK, there actually isn’t a specific mention of e-boards in the law. Wheeled recreational devices include any “wheeled device, built to transport a person, propelled by human power or gravity…does not include a motor-assisted device other than a motorized scooter.” That last section is what makes e-boards fall into this category. Logically, if both motorized scooters and regular scooters constitute wheeled recreational devices, then so should motorized and regular skateboards. 

This means Australia treats e-boards a bit differently than everyone else, because they don’t consider them to be in the same category as other motor vehicles.

For instance, a person riding on an electric skateboard in Australia is considered a pedestrian, not a rider. Remember, the principal legal issue in Canada has to do with the inability to insure the board, which in turn is a problem because it’s regulated the same way a car is. 

Areas where e-boards are prohibited will often have a prominently displayed sign banning all wheeled recreational devices, but this won’t always be the case. 

Wheeled recreational devices are prohibited on any road with a dividing line or a median strip, any road with a speed limit greater than 50 kilometers per hour, or a one way road with more than one unmarked lane.

It’s also prohibited to use them on any road at night. 

If you’re able to find a road you can legally use your e-board on, you have to keep as far to the left side of the road as possible and you can’t travel side by side with more than one other pedestrian.

If you’re riding on a sidewalk- which appears to be legal nationwide- you also must keep as far to the left side as possible, and give way to any pedestrian not on a wheeled recreational device. You are required to wear a helmet any time you use your e-board on a road or road-related area.

These are the nation-wide laws. Local authorities may add additional regulations and restrictions if they wish. 

Are electric skateboards legal in Europe?

There are no European Union regulations for electric skateboards, so member nations have different policies. Most classify them as Light Electric Vehicles, along with electric scooters and bicycles. Finland requires riders to register and insure their boards as light motorcycles based on their top speed. Denmark, Belgium and Germany allow them provided you don’t exceed certain speeds. Norway considers them the same as bicycles, and they’re also legal in Sweden, Iceland, Switzerland, Greece, and Spain. France is working on legislation to allow them. In the rest of Europe, they’re a sort of gray area. Outside of Austria and Turkey there aren’t specific laws banning them, but they tend to get bundled together with hover boards and Segways and regulated that way. This means that for much of Europe electric skateboards aren’t street legal yet.

That’s changing quickly, though. Germany’s laws allowing their use were only introduced in 2018, and the same is true of Norway. It isn’t unreasonable to think that many countries in which e-boards are currently illegal will be changing that policy in the near future. 

Summary

Electric skateboards are new technology, and the law hasn’t kept up very well. It’s easy to assume that’s just because it’s lagging behind the times, but there are valid reasons as to why lawmakers haven’t established clear regulations specifically for the use of electric skateboards.

With any new technology, it takes time to understand it fully. Most governments simply don’t feel that they have a good enough idea of the risks involved in electric skateboard use to make specific laws for it.

There isn’t a whole lot of data yet on the safety of electric boards. Most of what we know is essentially a guess based on what we can observe. Meanwhile, we have lots of information on electric scooters, bicycles, and small motorcycles. Since an electric skateboard operates at similar speeds and has similar safety features, it only makes sense to use the existing regulations for those devices on e-boards until they’re better understood.

In the United States, California and Texas have clear legislation allowing the use of electric skateboards on smaller roads with low speed limits while other states, like Florida, don’t technically allow them at all.

In the UK, electric boards are illegal on all public property. Canada doesn’t allow them on roads, but does allow them on sidewalks.

Australia regulates them much like California and Texas, allowing them on smaller roads with low speed limits and restricting their usage at night. 

Europe has different laws in each country. In some places it’s perfectly legal to ride your board in the street, in others it’s iffy, and in some it’s illegal. That’s changing quickly though as the various national governments adapt to a new and rapidly spreading technology. 

In almost every country that has regulations that apply to electric skateboards, local governments are allowed to add restrictions to the laws that the state, provincial, or national government has passed.

In most Canadian provinces, there are no provincial laws prohibiting the use of electric skateboards on sidewalks, but there could well be a city ordinance that bans their use altogether. 

The same is true of California, Texas, the UK and Australia. 

This makes it all but impossible to answer the question “are electric skateboards legal?” The answer is “it depends on where you live.” Your country might allow it, while your state doesn’t. Your state might allow them, while your county or city doesn’t. 

To add to the confusion, in many of the places where electric skateboards are illegal, the law isn’t enforced consistently. You may think it’s fine to ride in your area, because you’ve been doing it for months and haven’t had any problems, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal. Often police don’t recognize e-boards for what they are, and those that do may not realize that they’re illegal. In that case, you’ll be fine until you ride past an officer who does know that they are and is familiar with their legal status. 

If you’re still trying to decide if you should get an electric skateboard, do yourself a favor and check with your local authorities. You may have to call City Hall or even the police station and ask them directly, but it’s worth knowing exactly what the law is where you live before you invest in an e-board.

As time passes, we might start to see more consistency, or at least more eboard-specific laws. With more eboard users comes more information on their safety and the risks that they pose both to the rider and to the public. And, as more eboards are made and used the riders themselves will come to have a better understanding of their capabilities, and where they should and should not be riding. Almost all of the legal issues surrounding the use of electric skateboards are due to this being new technology, not hostile governments. If eboards are illegal where you live, or the laws governing their use are unreasonable, be patient. It’s likely that things will change soon, and in the meantime it’s better to follow the law than to get slapped with a hefty fine, or possibly have your board confiscated for breaking it.

If you have more questions or want to know more about using electric boards in your area, these forums are a great place to ask other riders about their experiences:

https://www.reddit.com/r/ElectricSkateboarding/

https://www.reddit.com/r/ElectricSkateboards/

https://www.reddit.com/r/eSk8/

https://www.quora.com/topic/Electric-Skateboards

You’ll find that often the folks in those forums can update you more quickly on the local laws than any government website, and they’re a great resource for anybody new to electric skateboarding. 

Sources:

Texas Transportation Code Title 7. This is the relevant law in Texas that governs the use of electric skateboards.

California Assembly Bill Number 604. The Californian bill governing the use of electric skateboards.

Florida Statutes, Motor Vehicles. The Floridian law banning electric skateboards on public roads and sidewalks.

Florida law, cops and eboards. A forum discussion on the legality of electric skateboards in Florida and the enforcement of the laws.

‘Hoverboards’ are illegal on both pavements and roads, CPS confirms. News report from the UK on the ban of hoverboards in public spaces. Electric skateboards are regulated as hoverboards for all intents and purposes in the UK right now.

Highway Act of 1835. The relevant portion of Englands Highway Act, which is used to ban the use of hoverboards and electric skateboards on public roads and sidewalks.

Roads Act of 1984. Scotland’s law pertaining to road vehicles; like the highway act, it’s interpreted to prohibits the use of electric skateboards, although they aren’t mentioned by name here.

Electric bikes: licensing, tax and insurance. The UK’s official definition of an electric bike. E-bikes are street legal, but their official definition excludes electric skateboards from being regulated the same way.

Electric skateboarders bid to Government for permission on public roads. News story on electric skateboarders in the UK trying to get the law updated to reflect the emerging technology.

Motor Vehicle Act. British Columbia’s Motor Vehicle Act prevents electric skateboards from being insured, and therefore makes them illegal for road use.

Motorized scooters and skateboards. The ICBC’s statement regarding its inability to insure electric skateboards in British Columbia.

‘It’s so insanely unsafe’: Calls to clamp down on motorized skateboards, scooters in bike lane. News story on the usage of electric skateboards in Vancouver, and how the police choose to either enforce the law or let the rider go.

I want to buy a hoverboard, can I legally use it in Toronto? Discussion of the legality of hoverboards in Toronto, where a city ordinance prohibits their use. Electric skateboards are regulated as hoverboards there.

Australian Road Rules. Australia’s nation-wide laws regarding vehicle and road use.

Electric skateboard regulations in the EU? Forum discussion which includes information on the usage of electric skateboards in Finland.

German Laws for Electric Skateboards Coming in 2018. The German approach to electric skateboards.

Are electric skateboards legal in your country? Check with our list. An overview of the legal status of e-boards worldwide, although it does focus primarily on Europe.

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