To Ride But Not to Rent: The Ability for Children in Ohio to Use Electric Scooters

Photo by Marat Mazitov on Unsplash

Jehanzeb Khan, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

I. Introduction

On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Ohio House Bill 295.[1] The bill in effect regulates the use of electric scooters, also referred to as “low-speed micromobility devices” from scooter rental companies such as Bird and Lime.[2] The bill itself affirms that riders must yield to pedestrians, use a front light and rear reflector at night, and not exceed a speed limit of 20 miles-per-hour.[3] Importantly, the bill states that “no person who is under sixteen years of age shall rent a low-speed micromobility device.”[4]

The bill further states that no person shall rent an electric scooter for or on behalf of a person who is under sixteen years of age as well.[5] Importantly, the House Bill does not clarify, nor explicitly state, whether a person who is under the age of sixteen is able to actually use an electric scooter themselves. This blog will delve into whether the choice to not explicitly prohibit the use but prohibit the renting of electric scooters by children under the age of sixteen is meaningful or not.

Part II of this blog will outline the provisions adopted in Ohio H.B. 295. Part II will outline the age restrictions in other states that exist for electric scooters. Part III will discuss the pragmatic implications Ohio H.B. 295 will have on children under the age of sixteen as it pertains to electric scooters. Lastly, Part IV will conclude with what future legislators, both in Ohio and otherwise, should consider in terms of regulating electric scooter use for children.

II. Background

Part A of this section will delve into Ohio H.B. 295. Then, Part B will summarize the age restrictions in other states that exist for electric scooters.

A. Ohio H.B. 295

The Ohio House Bill 295 made changes to the O.R.C. § 511.514.[6] Under this provision, subsection (A) and (B) concern the “use” of electric scooters.[7] However, O.R.C. § 4511.514(C) affirms that persons that are under sixteen years of age cannot rent an electric scooter or have someone rent a scooter on their behalf.[8] Nevertheless, O.R.C. § 4511.514 does not specify that persons under the age of sixteen cannot use electric scooters.[9]

B. Electric Scooter Age Regulations Across the United States

States across the nation have placed varying regulations on the use of electric scooters. Besides Alaska, West Virginia, and Wyoming, all other states have some form of regulation on electric scooters, whether pertaining to speed limit, helmet use, street use, or age restrictions amongst other regulations.[10] Concerning age regulations, only Connecticut, Nevada, Oregon Tennessee and Virginia prohibit persons under the age of sixteen to use electric scooters.[11] Michigan and Oregon prohibit persons under the age of eighteen to use electric scooters.[12] Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and West Virginia allow persons under the age of sixteen to use electric scooters, but only if they wear a helmet.[13]

III. Analysis

Concerning the new O.R.C. § 4511.514(C), it is unclear whether only regulating the ability for persons under the age of sixteen to rent but not use electric scooters is an oversight from the Ohio Legislature and Governor DeWine, or on purpose. With how the provision is written, persons under the age of sixteen are able to buy their own electric scooters and use those instead of renting an electric scooter from a company like Bird or Lime. Perhaps by restricting persons under the age of sixteen from renting an electric scooter effectively ensures that those very people will not use a scooter either.

Individuals in Ohio can rent an electric scooter from the company Lime in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo (the top four largest cities in Ohio) and Oxford (where Miami University is located).[14] Additionally, individuals in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati can also rent an electric scooter from the company Bird.[15] This makes sense because both Bird and Lime are marketed in major cities and universities as a means of providing an alternative form of transportation, and reducing car usage, the collective carbon footprint, and carbon emissions.[16] So while Bird and Lime collectively only provide electric scooter rental use to roughly 16% of the total Ohio population, their main audience is not rural Ohioans, but city dwellers and college students in Ohio instead.[17]

Presumptively, college students that live in the aforementioned Ohio cities that have electric scooter rentals are most certainly over the age of sixteen. However, those very cities do have a sizeable population of children under the age of sixteen that could in theory use an electric scooter. According the United States Census, there are about 49 thousand people in Columbus, 23 thousand people in Cleveland, 18 thousand people in Cincinnati, 17 thousand people in Toledo, and 500 people in Oxford between the ages of ten and fourteen years old.[18] Thus, if the objective of Ohio H.B. 295 is to ensure that people under the age of sixteen do not use electric scooters, there is probably an assumption that those very people are not going to buy an electric scooter themselves.

Granted, this may be a reasonable assumption to make. Firstly, buying an electric scooter is expensive, with the reported average cost of an electric scooter being $300.[19] Additionally, the ability to rent a scooter provides a whole slew of conveniences that owning one perhaps does not. Renting scooters from Lime and Bird allow users to pick up a scooter wherever it may be available and to drop it off just as easily anywhere on a public sidewalk, without needing to worry about where to store a scooter. Furthermore, users do not have to worry about electric scooter maintenance or charging the scooter. Ultimately, these very conveniences are what makes renting electric scooters in urban areas and cities popular.

Although the Ohio House of Representatives may still effectively eliminate the ability for persons under the age of sixteen to use electric scooters by prohibiting rental use, it still begs the question why the prohibition of use of electric scooters outright was not implemented. Furthermore, the pragmatic reality of how this age restriction will be policed and regulated remains unknown. Lime and Bird both require that users be at least eighteen years old before signing in.[20] However, the regulation of ensuring users are being truthful before attempting to rent an electric scooter leaves a lot to be desired. Additionally, if someone under the age of sixteen is somehow able to rent an electric scooter, it is not clear if local police in Ohio will even be able to deter and stop this newly illegal behavior.

Ultimately, Ohio H.B. 295 is good, but imperfect legislation. Regulations on how electric scooter riders must ride, including a speed limit, yielding rules, and light use at night is important. However, the unclear language concerning age restrictions seems odd when the Ohio legislature could have written a clearer proviso to prohibit persons under the age of sixteen from renting and using electric scooters. Furthermore, how the newly implemented regulations will be policed is unknown and not covered by Ohio H.B. 295. Thus, the success of Ohio H.B. 295, and if it will actually be able to regulate electric scooter use, remains unclear.

IV. Conclusion

The Ohio House of Representatives and Governor DeWine in passing and signing Ohio H.B. 295 provided some firm regulations in the use of electric scooters in Ohio. Yet, the decision to only regulate the renting of electric scooters by persons under the age of sixteen and not the use of them outright is an odd one. Regardless, given the overall purpose of electric scooters to be used by city dwellers and college students, and given the convenience of renting an electric scooter as compared to owning one, it is perhaps reasonable to think that people under the age of sixteen are not going to exploit the loophole and buy an electric scooter themselves. Nevertheless, the rationale behind not prohibiting the use of electric scooters by persons under the age of sixteen outright is questionable. Furthermore, while the new age regulation could be positive for the state of Ohio, there are many practical concerns in terms of how this regulation will actually be policed given how easy it is to rent an electric scooter to begin with. Ultimately, time will tell whether Ohio H.B. 295 will achieve the intended purpose of the Ohio House of Representatives and Governor DeWine.


[1] Jeremy Pelzer, Gov. Mike DeWine signs bills regulating electric scooters, overhauling Ohio’s workplace discrimination laws, cleveland.com (Jan. 13, 2021), https://www.cleveland.com/open/2021/01/gov-mike-dewine-signs-bills-regulating-electric-scooters-overhauling-ohios-workplace-discrimination-laws.html.

[2] H.B. 295, 133rd Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ohio 2021). For the purpose of simplicity, this piece will refer to “low-speed micromobility devices” as electric scooters, just as companies like Bird and Lime refer to them.

[3] Pelzer, supra note 1.

[4] Ohio H.B. 295 (emphasis added).

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Specifically, O.R.C. § 4511.514(A) provides regulations for where electric scooters can be used (like sidewalks, streets, etc.), while O.R.C. §4 511.514(B) provides regulations for what electric scooter operators cannot do (like operating a scooter at night without a front light).

[8] Emphasis added.

[9] Emphasis added.

[10] The Comprehensive Guide to Electric Scooter Laws, UNAGI (Oct. 15, 2019), https://unagiscooters.com/blogs/unagi-news/the-comprehensive-guide-to-electric-scooter-laws.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Locations, Lime, https://www.li.me/locations (last visited Jan. 27, 2021).

[15] Map., Bird,  https://www.bird.co/map/ (last visited Jan. 27, 2021).

[16] Life at Bird., https://www.bird.co/about/ (last visited Jan. 27, 2021).; About Us, Lime, https://www.li.me/about-us. (last visited Jan. 27, 2021).

[17] United States Census Bureau, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. (May 2020). 16% was calculated based off of the population of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Oxford compared to the entire population of Ohio.

[18] United States Census Bureau, 2019: ACS 5-Year Estimates Subject Tables (2019).

[19] How much does an electric scooter cost?, Razor,https://www.razor.com/blog/how-much-does-an-electric-scooter-cost/#:~:text=Some%20of%20the%20higher%20end,scooter%20cost%20is%20around%20%24300. (last visited Jan. 27, 2021).

[20] Bird, Safety. (2021) https://www.bird.co/safety/;  Lime, User Agreement. (2021) https://www.li.me/user-agreement. The discrepancy should be noted in Bird and Lime’s age requirement of eighteen compared to the new Ohio requirement of sixteen.

Leave a Reply