Electric Scooters in Detroit - The Riding Laws and You!

Daniel Foley
Written By: Daniel Foley
Published on: 7/9/2024

Whether you use state department rentals such as Bird, Lime or Spin scooters. Or prefer a more portable, lightweight electric scooter to style out your daily commute. Staying both safe and legal is a definite must when riding an electric scooter in Detroit.

We're talking West Side to East Side, Palmer Park Area in the north to downtown Detroit. In whatever public spaces you want to ride your e scooter - Michigan state law applies!

In this article ... we'll run down all the specifics, including speed limits, no ride areas, legal parking and - how many bucks you could be fined if you're caught out!

How State Law defines electric scooters?

In 2018, the Michigan Vehicle Code - which covers Detroit - was revised to include the category of, “electric skateboards.” It's the way Michigan law has chosen to define an electric scooter!

Electric scooters take to the streets

Some of the first e scooters to operate on Detroit's public streets and spaces were launched by companies, Bird and Lime, followed by Spin (from the Ford Motor Company).

But at the same time, it was the arrival of the highly portable, lightweight electric scooter - designed for the daily, urban commute by brands such as Unagi - which also helped to kickstart the age of affordable, personal transportation.

What are the different ways to access electric scooters in Detroit?

The two main methods are:

Hire "dockless" e scooters - which means no fixed "home location". You’ll need to download an app to locate, unlock, and pay for your rides. The hires are run by several different operators across the city, currently, Bird ( available through the Uber app), Lime, Spin, and Link-Up. You will need to pick and drop off your hire scooter off at designated locations.

Take out a monthly (cancel at any time) rental subscription - on your own "personal" scooter from a private company, such as Unagi. Who will deliver your scooter directly to your door.

Unagi All-Access Rental Cool Mist Electric Scooter

What the Michigan Vehicle Code says about riding electric scooters?

Electric scooter laws in the US can vary from state to state, and even between counties and local authorities. Particularly, speed limits, and where you're allowed to ride and park.

Under the Michigan Legislature (MCL) for Detroit the following rules apply:

About YOU the rider

Age limit (MCL 257.658 | 4 & 9 )

  • Children below 12 years old - are entirely prohibited from riding an electric scooter on the public streets.

Insurance and registration

  • None required - electric scooters are not defined as motor "vehicles" under the Michigan Vehicle Code.

Protective crash helmet

About YOUR electric scooter - what it must have

The Code states your e scooter must have "2 wheels", which should be easy enough!

  • Standing Deck - 152 cm (60 in) length MAX | 45.7 cm (18 in) width MAX.
  • Electric motor - 2,500 watts MAX.
  • Designed to also be moved forward manually by rider.
  • Controlled braking systems.

Riding at night

In Detroit, you cannot ride your electric scooter on a roadway:

  • 30 minutes after sunset
  • 30 minutes before sunrise

Unless your electric scooter is equipped with:

  • Headlight - emitting white light visible for 152.4 meters (500 ft), MIN.
  • Rear red reflector - reflecting light visible 30.4 - 152.4 meters (100-500ft, MIN). And must be at the same height as a vehicle's front lights.

Unagi

About HOW and WHERE to ride your electric scooter

Riding bicycles, ebikes and e scooters is not entirely the free-for-all it once was just a few years ago*

*In May 2022, for example, the Detroit Police Department imposed a curfew - 9pm to 6 am | Friday and Saturday - on electric scooter hire in the Central Business District, known as Downtown Detroit. Resulting in the city's scooter hire operators remotely shutting down their fleets.

In the age of the commuter scooter and the new laws, the drive is definitely on for sensible, safe riding. This means:

No passengers allowed (MCL 257.658 | 3) - only one person is allowed to ride an electric scooter at any one time.

Keep to the right (MCL 257.660 | 1) - and in the correct lane when riding on a highway or street. And always be as close as possible to the right-hand side.

In Detroit, Electric scooters must NOT be ridden side by side (MCL 257.660 | 2) - unless you're riding on a pathway in public spaces, which tells you the route is reserved for riding e scooters (or e bikes)

Passing through traffic (MCL 257.660 | 4) - is NOT allowed, unless:

  • In a two-way street - you can safely pass on the left-hand side of vehicles moving in the same direction.
  • In a one-way street, you can safely pass on the left and right-hand sides of vehicles moving in the same direction.

Riding your electric scooter on a Sidewalk (MCL 257.660 | 5) - is permitted. You also have access to ride your electric scooter in bike lanes and on roads.

PLEASE NOTE: In Detroit, pedestrians always have the right of way.

You are also responsible for making your intentions clear to pedestrians and other road users

This means you MUST ALWAYS SIGNAL:

  • When turning left or right.
  • Passing and overtaking pedestrians.

Unagi All-Access Rental Latte Electric Scooter

YOU CANNOT RIDE on sidewalks in Detroit

WHERE YOU CANNOT RIDE on sidewalks

Riding on sidewalks and keeping to the speed limit - these are the big ones for e scooter riders everywhere.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO KNOW:

Michigan laws allow you to legally ride your e scooter on sidewalks in Detroit. However, each local government authority has the power to regulate its own rules in its own area neighborhoods. This can change where you can and cannot ride.

You may NOT be allowed to ride your scooter:

The local authorities must install signs that clearly give you notice of the local restrictions or regulations, which may differ from Michigan laws.

Speed limit (MCL 257.660 | 10) for electric scooters in Detroit

MAXIMUM speed limit is 25 mph - unless you're attempting to cross the highway or street with your scooter.

Where highway or road speed limit exceeds 45 mph - you're not allowed to ride your electric scooter unless you're attempting to cut across.

How do you rent an electric scooter in Detroit?

You can simply subscribe to Unagi All-Access Scooter Subscription, where you can have up to 2 or more free months rental, offered at different times of the year.

Parking - where you CAN and CANNOT park your electric scooter in Detroit

It all depends on whether you're parking your e scooter on:

  • Sidewalk, or
  • Highway and Street

In Detroit the regulations state that electric scooters must be parked in the sidewalk “furniture zone” - outside of the main pedestrian travel area.

Under the Michigan Vehicle Code (MCL)

Parking on the Sidewalk (MCL 257.660d 1 | 2):

  • Is ALLOWED. You can park your electric scooter on a sidewalk so long as it doesn’t obstruct “the lawful movement of pedestrians or other traffic.”

You should always allow your scooter:

  • 6 feet of clearance on the sidewalk, and be
  • Parked upright.

In Detroit, parking your electric scooter on the Street (MCL 257.660d 3 |4):

  • Is ALLOWED. You can park your electric scooter wherever other vehicles (cars and trucks) are legally allowed to park.

You can also park:

  • At an angle to the curb or edge of the highway.
  • Alongside another scooter.

In Detroit, parking your electric scooter is NOT ALLOWED:

If you park your electric scooter "in such a way that it would obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.”

This means your e scooter should NOT be parked in:

  • Roadways
  • Bike lanes

-plus-

  • Construction zones
  • Lawns or landscaped areas

E scooters also should NOT be parked within 1.5 meters (5 ft) of:

  • Any crosswalk
  • Bike rack
  • Fire hydrant
  • Manhole cover
  • Drinking fountain
  • Public art
  • Driveway
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramp
  • Disabled parking space
  • Parking pay station

Nor within 3 meters (10 ft) of:

  • A building entrance, or

9.1 meters (30 ft) of:

  • A bus stop.

 rent an electric scooter in Detroit

How much does it cost to rent an electric scooter in Detroit?

Dockless scooters can be either a flat rate for a 30-minute hire or a number of free minutes. There's also a ride cost of $1 to start, then 15 -33 cents per minute (plus tax), depending on which hire operator you use.

A personal subscription to Unagi All Access Membership currently costs between $59 and $89 per month, depending on the e-scooter model and whether it is new or refurbished.

Unagi All-Access Rental Cool Mist Electric Scooter

Fines for breaking the law

So, what happens if you do break the law? What are the penalties?

In 2022, the Michigan courts issued a tariff of a "Recommended range of fines and costs ... for first time offenders".

Under the Michigan Code, the maximum total you could be fined ranges from:

  • Up to $200 for a parking violation.
  • Up to $240 for other e scooter riding violations.

Summing up

In Detroit, you can generally ride electric scooters on the sidewalks, but NOT in every space around the city.

The maximum speed limit is 25 mph, but you're NOT allowed to ride where the speed limit exceeds 45 mph.

It's always important to carefully check where you're allowed to ride and park your scooter and the speed limit on each road and highway.

Take nothing for granted! US states, cities and local departments will set their own rules, which should be clearly signposted for you to follow.

Grab yourself a lightweight electric scooter for fast, affordable commuting in Detroit!


Daniel Foley
Daniel Foley

Daniel tests all the latest e-scooters and currently enjoys the Unagi Voyager as a daily driver for it's light weight, good range, and stylish look.

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