Electric Scooters in San Diego: The Laws, Scenic Routes and Riding Tips

Daniel Foley
Written By: Daniel Foley
Published on: 7/6/2024

San Diego is a beautiful city nestled along the Pacific Ocean coast in Southern California. It is right next to the Mexican border, which influences the city's rich Hispanic culture. More importantly, though, the city enjoys a mild, year-round Mediterranean climate, allowing both locals and tourists to fully appreciate its lovely beaches and parks.

However, San Diego is more nuanced than that. As a Navy town, it hosts numerous military and defense-related activities, and as a port town, it serves as a center for international trade. Additionally, the city is a magnet for research and manufacturing firms, home to tech companies like Qualcomm, Nokia, and LG, and boasts some of the best healthcare and biotechnology development centers. With all that in mind, and considering that San Diego is the 8th most populous city in the US, the topic of transport emerges as quite crucial.

Currently, 80% of people move around in automobiles on the city’s network of freeways and highways. However, as part of its Climate Action Plan, San Diego aims for 50% of residents to commute without driving cars by 2035, which necessitates strong structural and policy support for micro mobility options, including bike lanes for cyclists and scooterists.

In this article, we'll delve into the specifics of riding electric scooters in San Diego, including the laws, scenic routes, essential riding tips, and various options for acquiring or using an electric scooter in the area.

Are scooters allowed in San Diego?

Yes. The California law and San Diego Municipal Code allows riders to take their personal or shared scooters out on the road. However, there are quite a number of laws to adhere to, as highlighted below.

Preview of the San Diego electric scooter laws

The San Diego Police Department is responsible for enforcing the following laws for personal and shared scooter riders: Some of the laws are specific to the city, while some are stated under California Vehicle Code § 21235.

Requirements

  • License: Valid drivers license or valid instruction permit
  • Age: At least 16 years of age, with a valid learner's permit.
  • Helmet: Riders under the age of 18 must wear properly fitted and fastened helmets.

Riding rules, parking, and operating restrictions

  • The electric scooter must be equipped with a braking mechanism
  • Scooters can only be ridden on highways with a posted speed of 25 mph and below
  • Riders are not permitted to carry passengers
  • Scooters shall not be ridden on sidewalks
  • Riders shall not carry packages that cause them to take their hands off the handlebars
  • Scooters must be parked in an upright position
  • Scooter must be equipped with a bright white headlight, a red rear light, and white/yellow side reflectors if they are to be ridden at night
  • Riders shall not get behind the cockpit while intoxicated
  • Riding on boardwalks is prohibited in San Diego

San Diego electric scooter laws
Unagi All-Access Rental Cobalt Electric Scooter

San Diego electric scooter laws

What is an electric scooter according to California and San Diego law?

Electric scooters are classified as motorized devices, either owned or rented, used for personal transportation. California state law further allows local agencies to redefine these motorized devices and regulate their use within their jurisdiction.

Unagi Model One Voyager

What is the speed limit for electric scooters in San Diego?

San Diego does not institute a specific city-wide speed limit for electric scooters, leaving most areas regulated under state law. California state law applies a speed limit of 15 mph for scooters ridden on bikeways.

The city of San Diego has also instituted geofencing requirements in certain areas, and mandates shared scooter companies to reduce the speed of the scooters to 8 mph or less in the following areas:

  • Public walkways within Balboa Park
  • Public walkways within Liberty Station NTC Park
  • Public walkways within Spanish Landing Park and Trail
  • On public right of way within PETCO Ballpark Zone, where rental providers should additionally prevent riders from locking, parking, or ending a ride in this area.

Note: Pursuant to the ban on riding electric scooters on San Diego’s boardwalks, shared scooter providers are required to limit the speed of their fleets to 3 mph in such locations. Providers are also responsible for informing riders when they have entered such areas, to avoid alarming them mid ride.

Do you need a license to ride an electric scooter in San Diego?

Yes. Under California law, riders are required to have a valid driver’s license, or a valid learner's permit in order to legally ride in public spaces. The class of license required is not specified, so riders can safely assume that any of the 5 classes will do, including Class G and M.

What is the minimum age requirement for riding scooters in San Diego?

The legal age for an e-scooter rider in San Diego is 16 years, as guided by the state law. However, this is also pegged on the rider having a valid learner’s permit. That said, rental firms also have the right to set their own policies surrounding legal riding age, for liability purposes, and the majority exercise that right with a ban on riders below the age of 18 years.

Do you need a helmet to ride an electric scooter in San Diego?

Riders below 18 years of age are required to wear a helmet while riding their e-scooters in San Diego. The helmet should be properly fitted and fastened to reduce the risk of severe injury. And while this rule is not enforced on all riders–you should beware that statistically, riders who chose not to wear helmets suffer the most fatal injuries in the event of an accident.

We have an informative article on the best helmets for riding your scooter.

Can you carry a passenger on your electric scooter in San Diego?

No. California law does not permit tandem riding. Carrying a passenger is frowned upon in most (if not all) states, given the inherent danger associated. Passengers on scooters pose risks such as potentially overloading the scooter, which affects power and structural integrity, compromised balancing and maneuverability, limited deck space, and reduced concentration.

No. California law does not permit tandem riding.

Can you get a DUI when riding an electric scooter in San Diego?

It is illegal to ride while intoxicated on alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. An arrest for riding under the influence in San Diego is punishable by a fine of not more than $250 for San Diegans. Riders are allowed to request for a blood or breath test to determine their alcoholic or drug content from the arresting officer. However, note that repeat offenders risk possible jail time, and the city can also opt to temporarily suspend your license.

Do you need insurance and registration for your electric scooter in San Diego?

Under California law, electric scooter riders are exempt from insurance and registration with the DMV or displaying a license plate.

Where can you legally ride your electric scooter in San Diego?

The best recommended place to ride your scooter in San Diego is on Class II bike lanes, trails or bikeways. Only in the absence of these should riders opt to get on highways–with posted speed limits under 25 mph.

Note: The city of San Diego reserves the right to ban electric scooters on bike lanes in the interest of public safety. Therefore, always be on the lookout for traffic signs. Shared scooter riders benefit from geofencing technology and receive immediate warning when entering such roads.

Can you ride your electric scooter on San Diego sidewalks?

No. Sidewalk riding is strictly prohibited in San Diego, and the wider California. The ban exists to reduce chances of riders colliding with pedestrians. However, there is an allowance for riders briefly crossing a sidewalk in order to enter or exit an adjacent property.

Rental firms are mandated to make use of geofencing or similar technology to keep their fleets off the sidewalk. Specifically, San Diego requires that providers reduce the speeds of all their electric scooters to 3 mph on sidewalks to guarantee an adherence by their proprietors.

Can you ride your electric scooter on the highway in San Diego?

Yes. Riding on highways is permissible by California law in San Diego, with a caveat.

You should not take your scooter on highways with speed limits exceeding 25 mph, unless you’re riding on an adjacent Class II or IV bikeway.

That said, the city of San Diego reserves the right to authorize scooter riding on highways with speed limits of up to 35 mph, outside of Class II and IV bikeways.

In order to stay safe on the highway, riders should observe the following:

  • Stay as close to the right hand of the roadway as possible if you’re not moving as fast as traffic
  • Only ride along the left-hand curb on one way streets with multiple lanes
  • Only change lanes when overtaking, avoiding hazards, or when the lane cannot accommodate you riding alongside a car
  • Dismount and walk, if you intend to make a left turn

Where is riding your electric scooter prohibited in San Diego?

The City of San Diego has an extensive list of places where you can’t ride your e-scooter.

Boardwalks and beaches

Riding e-scooters, e-bikes and bicycles on boardwalks and bay walks is prohibited, particularly in the following areas:

  • Martin Luther King Promenade
  • North and South Embarcadero pedestrian walk
  • The pedestrian area on West Date Street east of India Street and west of Columbia Street, known as the Piazza della Famiglia
  • On the public walkway on Ocean Front Walk in Mission Beach, beginning at the South Mission Beach Jetty northward to the terminus of the public walkway at Ocean Boulevard at Law Street in Pacific Beach
  • On the public walkway on the west side of Mission Bay Park from San Diego Place (adjacent to the South Mission Beach Jetty) to Corona Oriente Rd (terminus of Crown Point Park), known as Bayside Walk
  • On the public walkway on the east side of Mission Bay Park from De Anza Road southward to the South Shores Boat Launch and Park
  • On the boardwalk from Avenida De La Playa (adjacent to La Jolla Shores) north to the terminus of La Jolla Shores Park at its northeast corner

System facilities and parking structures of public transportation

Operating your electric scooter in such zones attracts a hefty fine ranging between $250-400, community service of up to 48 hours, or imprisonment not exceeding 90 days.

Vehicular crossings

This includes riding on structures like bridges or toll roads without a special D.O.T permit.

Special events

Scooters may be banned from certain areas during permitted special events, emergency situations, or to maintain public health and safety. The City Manager communicates such requirements to operators who are able to temporarily suspend the operation of their scooters.

Time restrictions

San Diego requires shared mobility providers to deactivate their fleets between 12.00 a.m to 2.30 am.

Unagi All-Access Rental Cool Mist Electric Scooter

Where can you park your scooter in San Diego?

At the end of your trip, you can look out for the following appropriate parking spots:

  • Shared corrals: These are authorized on-street parking spots for dockless scooters
  • Beside a bike rack, usually installed in the public right-of-way
  • Bike lockers provided by iCommute at over 60 transit stops–storage lockers that provide secure parking for personal scooters for frequent commuters throughout San Diego
  • The landscape or furniture zone of the sidewalk–but park your scooter upright, and in a way that it does not hinder pedestrian movement.

Areas to avoid parking in San Diego

It is also particularly important to take note of places the city deems inappropriate for parking your electric scooter, including:

  • City sidewalks
  • In spots designated for disabled people
  • On street corrals, observe the 4 scooters per provider rule
  • Within six feet in any direction of a designated bus stop or trolley stop, where the e-scooters may impact stopping, on-boarding, and off-boarding.
  • Boardwalks

How to access e-scooters in San Diego

Despite California being one of the friendliest states for electric scooters in the US, things haven’t been as smooth in San Diego. Last year (2023), the city council was forced to amend the laws regulating scooter riding in the city following heated debates over the issues with shared scooters. The new laws drastically reduced the number of available e-scooters and limited contracts to only three shared scooter companies.

This raises the question: what’s the best way to access scooters in San Diego?

The rules governing shared scooter use in San Diego are some of the strictest in the country, attracting plenty of discontent from providers. Some of these rules include sidewalk riding speeds of 3 mph, parking in clusters of 4 per provider, a limited number of scooters each firm can operate, city-imposed fees, and the requirement for sophisticated technology on the scooters, which attracts theft, particularly rampant in the city.

San Diego had contracts with Bird, Lime, and Spin. However, citing a harsh business environment, Bird scooters, the last of the rental firms, pulled out of operations in the city in November 2023. These three firms, along with other shared scooter providers, continue to show interest in working with the city of San Diego but will not do so unless the city softens some of its stances and creates a more favorable working environment.

That leaves riders with two options: Buy or Subscribe.

Unagi All-Access Rental Latte Electric Scooter

Buying an electric scooter in San Diego

If you’re planning on buying an electric scooter, the first question you should ask yourself is, “How much are you willing to spend?” Cost remains the biggest hindrance to scooter ownership, as good scooters cost a considerable fortune that most people are unwilling or unable to put up with.

We have a curated list of the best budget electric scooters for you if you’re short of cash. However, if money is no object, you can go through our recommendations for the best electric scooters. And if you need a little extra help…

We have more buyer's guides curated to help you get the best possible scooter for your needs, whether you need a fastest scooter, or electric scooter that can cover long distances, a portable lightweight commuter, a scooter that goes offroad, or one that can withstand varying weather–whatever your need, we’ve got you covered.

And why should you buy a scooter?

  • The satisfaction of a one-off payment
  • The convenience of having your device ready to go at all times
  • The advantage of being able to carry the scooter into your work, or appointment spaces without worrying about parking
  • Knowing when to charge your scooter and planning your journeys accordingly
  • Being responsible for the condition and shape of your scooter
  • No hygiene anxiety
  • Getting a scooter that exactly matches your needs
  • The ability to customize your scooter

Once you’re settled on a model, you can try your luck at any of San Diego’s physical retail outlets. If not, there are plenty of online shops, and you can simply have yours delivered.

The Membership Plan by Unagi for San Diego residents

Unagi’s membership plan is the solution for you if you do not have cash at hand to purchase a good scooter. Unagi has a brilliant monthly payment plan that allows you to own the scooter for the duration of your subscription. It is literally the best of both worlds (buying and renting).

Unagi offers two scooters under their subscription plan: the Unagi Model One Classic and the Unagi Voyager.

Unagi Model One Classic

Unagi Model One Classic

The Model One Classic is a dual, ultra lightweight electric scooter that riders can get for just $59/ month. The 28.5 lbs scooter achieves a top speed of 20 mph, and a range of up to 12 miles. It is equipped with a front and rear motor rated 250 W each–a quality that makes the Model One an excellent hill climber, beating single motor scooters that cost twice its price to the finish line. Given that San Diego is mostly made up of hilly terrain, the Model One is a good fit for the city’s residents.

Unagi Voyager

Unagi Voyager

The Voyager is the belle of the ball. Weighing just 29.6 lbs, it is the best lightweight electric scooter—perfect for running errands, making first and last mile commutes, and tackling slightly challenging terrain, all while reaching a satisfactory top speed of 20 mph.

San Diego's hilly terrain often increases average trip distances due to the winding nature of the cycle routes. Thankfully, the Voyager can cover a distance of 25 miles on a single charge without slowing down on hills, thanks to its dual 500 W motors.

Additionally, the Voyager is a safe scooter with its dual electronic braking system. The accompanying app allows you to customize performance features, keep track of your riding stats, run diagnostics on the scooter, and monitor remaining miles.

The best part? The scooter is available for as low as $79 per month. Unagi also offers free shipping, theft and damage insurance, and delivers the scooter pre-serviced. And if that's not enough, your subscription also unlock perks like White Glove—a service that provides a secondary scooter during your travels.

If you attend San Diego State University, UC San Diego, University of San Diego or any of the other wonderful higher learning establishments, Unagi has an exclusive students discount that unlocks the first month free, and gives a subsequent 10% off on future payments.

Registration takes less than five minutes. Follow the prompts here, and once you've successfully subscribed, your Unagi scooter of choice will be shipped within two business days.

Unagi All-Access Rental Cool Mist Electric Scooter

Scenic routes and trails for electric scooters in San Diego

You have your scooter, and you’re staring at your San Diego map wondering, “Where do I start?” Well, we have some scenic routes mapped out for you. These routes are a mix of Class II, Class III and Class IV roads, therefore cyclists and scooterists can safely and legally explore.

Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway is a 24 mile bicycle circuit, but we’ll chart out a 13-mile route that’s car free for those that want a leisurely ride, with beautiful waterside views, and a nice calm breeze. This route attracts bikers, scooterists, skaters, and even pedestrians, and is loved because it's flat and quite spacious.

You can start your ride at the Coronado Ferry Landing and, if you're just out for a casual cruise, circle back at the Coronado Yacht Club. But for a longer ride, follow the path under the Coronado Bridge and along the Silver Strand Highway 75, then turn onto Palm Avenue, which will take you to the Imperial Beach Pier.

Some riders even take the Coronado Ferry to the Coastal Rail Trail for a full-day adventure. A popular pit stop is the Coronado Coffee Company stand near the Ferry Landing, where you can grab a coffee before heading down the Silver Strand.

Mission Bay Bike Loop

For another easy and scenic scooter ride in San Diego, try the 11.3-mile loop around Mission Bay. This beginner-friendly path is flat and well-paved, with lovely views of waterways, bridges, and Fiesta Island. Fiesta Island is a popular spot, especially in the summer, so you’ll be sharing the route with skaters and cyclists--audio alerts are non-negotiable. But if you’re looking for postcard-worthy shots, don’t skip on it.

For tourists, we recommend subscribing to Unagi’s membership plan, regardless of the length of your stay. This is bound to be an exhilarating ride, and you’ll not want to limit your time on the trail, or pile on the rental costs. We guarantee you won't quit at the first ride. Keep an eye out for SloMo, the famous rollerblader who frequents the area. Then finish your ride with a picnic by the bay or stop by Belmont Park for a refreshing drink. If you’re up for more, continue cruising up the boardwalk to Pacific Beach.

Big Laguna Trail

If you're not a fan of crowded, 'touristy' trails, then we highly recommend the Big Laguna Trail in Mount Laguna. Just under an hour east of downtown via the Sunrise Highway, this 13-mile loop takes you through beautiful meadows and pine forests, making it a perfect spot for a weekend adventure.

The Big Laguna Trail is a crowd-pleaser, with most riders recommending it as one of the most exhilarating tracks. Granted, it was primarily popularized by mountain bikers, but riders of the Unagi Voyager might want to put their dual motor advantage to the test.

You'll want to start your ride at the Sunset Trailhead and pass through the Mount Laguna campground. Along the way, you get to take in the scenery of the Cleveland National Forest. This trail is also an Instagram jackpot, whether you're fascinated by the vibrant wildflowers or the diverse wildlife.

Carrying bug repellent might be a good idea. And while you're at it, why not grab yourself a healthy dose of water, sunscreen, and, if you have a set of binoculars, bring them along and show off a little? But don't get caught up in the excitement and forget to take a minute to breathe in that fresh mountain air.

Ocean Beach Pier to Cabrillo National Monument

Ready to tackle a hilly track, share the road with vehicles, and pay an admission fee? Sounds like too much trouble, right? Wrong!

Consider this trail, with an 8-mile coastal route, starting at the Ocean Beach Pier, through Sunset Cliffs Blvd. and Catalina Blvd. As you ride along, you get incredible views of Point Loma, the city’s skyline, military barracks, WWII bunkers, and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

What’s a few hills and gentle inclines as you head for Sunset Cliffs? Or the fact that certain sections of this track are Class III roads, meaning you’ll have to share the road with cars? Nothing. Because…

Once you get to Cabrillo National Park, you can pay the $10 admission fee to continue riding along the coastal route, where you’ll be treated to a scene of passing tidal pools teeming with wildlife. You also can’t beat the breathtaking sight of the ocean as you scoot down the descent of Cabrillo road. Just ensure to pack sunscreen, water, and an energy bar to refuel as you scoot back up the 350 ft, 0.75 mile track to the main road.

Balboa Park Loop

It’s not a true adventure till you’ve ridden through greenery, and that’s what the Balboa Park offers. You’re given first-hand access to the Prado Bridge, some museums, gardens like Rose Gardens, and traditional Spanish architecture, that you wouldn’t ordinarily see when driving. If this is your weekend plan, though, be forewarned that parking at the park can be a bit of a hassle.

The 5-mile trail also takes you through the Fleet Science Center, Plaza de Balboa, and you can stop and take some pics at Bea Evanson fountains. If you’re still feeling adventurous, ride through Park Boulevard then through Hillcrest, and you can grab a quick bite at some popular restaurants in the area. As you exit Hillcrest, you have the option to circle back, or proceed into North Park for further exploration.

Is it safe to ride an electric scooter in San Diego

Yes, it is safe to ride an electric scooter in San Diego. Provided you are familiar with and abide by the laws, it should be smooth sailing for you.

Additionally, the city's official website is a treasure trove for riders and gives access to demarcated maps to help you plan your trips, parking guides, a break down of the rules, a place to report theft or other incidents, etc. So, get informed, then scoot away and explore the birthplace of California.

The best lightweight electric scooter for San Diego

To sum it up, the Unagi Voyager is undeniably the best electric scooter for San Diego residents. The 29.6 lbs lightweight and ultraportable design gives you an edge in maneuverability, while the scooter's dual 500 W motors are at the sweet spot for tackling San Diego's hilly terrain. The range is another big seller. With 25 miles on a single charge, the Voyager will have you doing extra loops on your favorite routes and trails, just coz you can.

Additionally, with a maximum speed of 20 mph, you can confidently integrate the Voyager into your daily routine as a first and last mile commuter, a companion for running errands, and the vehicle you pick when you want to enjoy leisurely rides. Its dual electronic braking system guarantees safety, and the accompanying app enhances your riding experience with customization features and real-time diagnostics.

For just $79 per month, Unagi offers you a deal you can't turn down, that includes free shipping, theft and damage insurance, and a pre-serviced scooter. And with perks like White Glove [ a service that allows you to request for a secondary scooter to be delivered to your destination when traveling, for the duration of your travel] it's hard to top the Voyager's offerings, especially in San Diego.


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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