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California Law Requires Electric Scooter Riders to Use Hand Turn Signals

Hand Turn Signals on Electric Scooters

The Law

Under California Vehicle Code Section 21221, electric scooter riders are required to follow the same rules applicable to motorists.

Vehicle Code Section 22107 requires the use of a signal before turning. In fact, under Vehicle Code Section 22109, that turn signal must be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.

Vehicle Code Section 22111 specifies the way in which hand signals shall be given:

All required signals given by hand and arm shall be given from the left side of a vehicle in the following manner:

  • (a) Left turn--hand and arm extended horizontally beyond the side of the vehicle.
  • (b) Right turn--hand and arm extended upward beyond the side of the vehicle, except that a bicyclist may extend the right hand and arm horizontally to the right side of the bicycle.
  • (c) Stop or sudden decrease of speed signal--hand and arm extended downward beyond the side of the vehicle.

The Danger of Giving a Hand Turn Signal While Riding an Electric Scooter

Electric scooters are very unstable. They are much less stable than bicycles. Why?

First, because on an electric scooter, the handlebars and the front wheel are all on the same axis of rotation. Because the front wheel is almost directly in line with where the rider stands, it makes the scooter more prone to tipping over. In contrast, a bicycle has a longer wheel base. The front wheel of a bike is larger than a scooter’s and the wheel is further out in front of the rider. All of this makes bicycles more stable and more forgiving when a rider encounters roadway defects.

Second, electric scooters have smaller wheels than bicycles. And the wheels are often solid as opposed to air-filled. The scooters’ smaller, solid, wheels are much less forgiving on roadway imperfections than air-filled bicycle wheels. A small rock or height differential that can be easily navigated over by a bicyclist, can cause an electric scooter rider to lose control and crash.

If an electric scooter rider takes his or her hand off the handlebars to signal that the rider is turning or stopping, as the California Vehicle Code requires, the rider’s risk of losing control and crashing is greatly increased. Complying with the law puts the scooter rider at great risk.

Bottom line, electric scooters are very unstable and require two hands. Following California law and giving hand signals is dangerous for a scooter rider. The only way to cure this danger is for scooter companies to either make the scooters more stable, or to add electric turn signals to the scooters.

The technology exists for e-scooter companies to add turn signals to the scooters. Manufacturers of personally-owned scooters have added turn signals. There is no excuse for shared electric scooters companies like Bird, Lime, Spin and Lyft not to add turn signals. If these companies cared about the safety of their riders, they would add turn signals to every scooter in their fleet.

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