"Motorized Skateboards"

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A few electric scooter riders have been mistakenly stopped by police. Generally, the police in California cite the "motorized skateboard" provisions of the California Vehicle Code (CVC). Such a citation runs counter to both common sense and dictionary definitions. When police officers classify electric scooters as "motorized skateboards", they are stretching the definition in five ways:

  1. skateboards have 4 wheels; scooters have 2 wheels.
  2. skateboards have no handle; scooters do.
  3. skateboards have no brakes; scooters do.
  4. skateboards without riders are inherently stable and capable of continuing to roll on their own; scooters will fall over and stop without a rider.
  5. skateboards have hard wheels; the Zappy has pneumatic tires and a shock absorber.

Clearly, scooters are different. Furthermore, they are much safer. Because an electric scooter is roughly the same weight and speed as a bicycle, people are calling for the rules to apply equally to bicycles and scooters.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) sections relevant to ZAPPY

21967. Except as provided in Section 21968, a local authority may adopt rules and regulations by ordinance or resolution prohibiting or restricting persons from riding or propelling skateboards on highways, sidewalks, or roadways.

21968. No motorized skateboard may be propelled on any sidewalk, roadway, or any other part of a highway or on any bikeway, bicycle path or trail, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail.

21969. A local authority may adopt rules and regulations by ordinance regulating persons engaged in roller skating on a highway, sidewalk, or roadway.

Dictionary Definitions

From AOL's Dictionary:

skate*board (noun).
skateboard : a short board mounted on small wheels that is used for coasting and often for performing athletic stunts

scoot*er (noun)
scooter: a child's foot-operated vehicle consisting of a narrow footboard mounted between two wheels tandem with an upright steering handle attached to the front wheel

motor scooter (noun)
motor scooter: a low 2- or 3-wheeled automotive vehicle resembling a child's scooter and having a seat so that the rider does not straddle the engine

From Lycos (American Heratage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition)

skate*board n.
A short, narrow board having a set of four roller skate wheels mounted under it and usually ridden in a standing or crouching position.

scoot*er n.
1.A child's vehicle consisting of a long footboard between two small end wheels, controlled by an upright steering handle attached to the front wheel. 2.A motor scooter. 3.Nautical. A flat-bottomed sailboat with runners that can skim over water or ice.

motor scooter n.
A two-wheeled vehicle with small wheels and a low-powered gasoline engine geared to the rear wheel.

Legal opinions

In addition to common sense, three official opinions undermine that legal argument.

1. ZAPPY Electric Scooter Ruled Not A Motorized Skateboard

SEBASTOPOL, California (February 12, 1999) - On October 19, 1998, Lawrence Lautzker was enjoying a ride on his “ZAPPY” electric scooter, manufactured by ZAP Power Systems (OTC BB:ZAPP) of Sebastopol, California, when he was cited by the Mill Valley Police Department for riding a motorized “skateboard” in violation of California Vehicle Code 21968. The matter was brought to trial on January 15, 1999 before Marin County Traffic Court Commissioner Harry Goldfine. Lautzker was represented by Jay Hendrickson, of the San Francisco Law Firm of Evers & Hendrickson. After Lautzker and his attorney demonstrated the ZAPPY to Commissioner Goldfine, the Commissioner determined that the ZAPPY was not a motorized skateboard and was legal in California. The case against Mr. Lautzker was dismissed. ZAP is a publicly owned company with stock trading under the symbol ZAPP. For sales information or to rent ZAPPY or ZAP’s other electric vehicles at ZAP outlets in either Santa Barbara or San Francisco, call 800-251-4555 or access the company’s Web site, http://www.zapbikes.com. # #

2. Due to the low speed (both electric bicycles and scooters travel at speeds lower than the top speed of pedal-only bikes) and other features, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) ruled in 1998 that the ZAPPY electric scooter is `not a motor vehicle.' The NHTSA, an arm of the U. S. Dept. of Transportation, stated in a memo dated May 22, 1998, that "... we do not consider the Zappy to be a 'motor vehicle'." The Zappy met the criteria they use to exclude certain vehicles from regulation.
3. Zappy Ruled a Motor Vehicle in Santa Clara County, California

In re Steffan E. Carroll
Case # H02213808

Defendants PreTrial Briefs can be found at:

For up-to-date legal information, join the Zappy mailing list at: http://www.egroups.com/group/zappy/fullinfo.html.

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