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Parents Beware: When Your Kid Rents a Dockless Bike

It’s a beautiful day, you’re strolling with the kids, and someone suggests a family ride around Balboa Park using the new dockless bikes available in the park.  Or, your teen tells you he’s using his (your) phone app to rent a bike to ride with his friends to the beach.  Dockless bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters are a convenient and fun new option, but do you know the rules for kids?

Who is legally allowed to ride dockless bikes?

For starters, it’s important to know that these new dockless bikes and scooters are NOT intended for kids.  Many of them are motorized (e-bikes, e-scooters).  California law requires all operators of motorized bikes and scooters to be at least 15 ½, and have a valid driver’s license or permit; eliminating younger kids.  Even for older teens with a license, dockless bikes and scooters are probably not a good option.  The user agreements for all dockless bikes require the renter to be at least 18 years old.

But, “Everybody is doing it!”  It’s true that there seem to be a lot of kids riding these brightly painted rental bikes and scooters. And there also seem to be some questions in communities about law enforcement (more on this in our next blog).  However, dockless operator Ofo’s terms of use make it clear that you cannot transfer your user account or permit others to use the service through your account, unless expressly authorized in writing by Ofo.

All dockless operators include statements like this in the terms you agree to:  You may not allow others to use a bike that you have checked out, even your kids.  And if you (or your kids) decide to ride anyway, because “what could go wrong?” the user agreements also include statements to the effect: If Rider intentionally or unintentionally falsifies or misrepresents Rider’s age, Rider accepts full responsibility for any and all damages, losses, injuries, penalties, fines, legal actions of any kind, including attorney’s fees and costs, judgments, or expenditures of any type whatsoever related to such misrepresentations.

Some dockless bicycle operators, Lime for example, do accommodate family participation and allow for riders between 13 and 18 years old with some specific requirements.  From their user agreement they allow minors 13 years and older to use a bike if:

  • You are the parent or guardian
  • You assume full financial and/or any other responsibility for anything that happens as a result of the minor’s use of the bike
  • You expressly guarantee that you and the minor are bound by the terms of the agreement
  • You will supervise the minor at all times while using the bike
  • You have conducted the required safety check and will monitor the minor’s bike during the ride
  • You guarantee the minor is wearing a properly fitted and fastened helmet
  • You have explained all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and/or ordinances to the minor, including any and all rules regarding parking and traffic laws.

What are the current e-bike laws in my area of San Diego?

Each city in the County of San Diego regulates sidewalk riding differently. Be sure your kids know and obey the following sidewalk laws:

  • Excluding business districts: you can ride your bicycle on sidewalks in Oceanside, Encinitas, San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Santee, and unincorporated San Diego County
  • Riding on sidewalks is prohibited at all times in Carlsbad, El Cajon, Vista, Poway
  • In San Marcos riding on sidewalks within the CBA central business area zoning district is prohibited (police and rangers exempt); anywhere else, you must yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible sound when overtaking a pedestrian
  • In Escondido bicycle riding is prohibited on all sidewalks within the city; no bikes allowed on public or private property where posted
  • Bicycle riding is not regulated in Solana Beach and La Mesa
  • Del Mar prohibits bicycle riding in parks

Dockless bike sharing in San Diego is still a new phenomenon.  Many say it is the transportation wave of the future.  Some cities have started to address the needs of minors and are developing regulations and guidance for the future.  For now, though, in San Diego, there are few legal options to rent a dockless bike for riders under 18.  Since many communities are currently looking into dockless bikes, this might be a good opportunity to get involved with setting guidelines for kids riding.

If you or a loved one is injured on a dockless bike or e-scooter by a negligent party, contact the San Diego bike accident attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP today! (619) 295-0035

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