What Is the Legal Status of a Segway? Motor Vehicle? Electric Bike? Pedestrian?

Segways are two-wheeled vehicles powered by electricity. They can travel approximately 12.5 miles an hour and require the rider to balance on the device. It is difficult to understand the rights and responsibilities of Segway riders as Segways have similar characteristics to motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

Federal Regulation

Technically, the Segway is considered a “consumer item.” It is therefore regulated by United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not regulate it. This device’s legislation is typically handled at the local and state levels.

Status

Segways are often referred to as “personal assistive devices,” “personal motorized devices”, or “electric personal assistance mobility device”. This is similar in function to the electric wheelchairs that some people with disabilities use.

Segway representatives successfully lobbied cities and states across the United States for their use. Segways can be used on private property and most states allow the use of them. Some cities, however, have specifically excluded Segways for use within their borders.

Segways riders must follow pedestrian rules for crossing streets and staying on the left side of the road.

The Location of Segway Use

State laws also determine where the Segway can be used. They can be used on sidewalks, bike trails, and roads where speeds are slower. Segways are allowed in many areas by pedestrian laws however Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts have laws that prohibit powered conveyances (including Segways) from being operated on sidewalks or bicycle paths.

Additional Restrictions

Segway operation is regulated at both the local and state levels. This means that rules can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. There are restrictions on how many can be used for tours, which is a very popular use of the Segway. Some areas consider the device to be a motor vehicle and require it to register and be insured in their state. Some jurisdictions have adopted ordinances that limit riders’ speeds. Local ordinances can also limit where the Segway can be used in a given city, potentially preventing it from pedestrian areas.

Additionally, laws may be passed in states or localities that require that a rider of a such device be at least 18 years old to legally use it.

Optional insurance

Segway riders may be eligible to purchase optional insurance similar to motor vehicle insurance. Liability insurance covers the cost of paying for injuries caused by the Segway to other people. It also covers property damage and medical bills. Comprehensive coverage covers theft and collision coverage pays for repairs. Some insurance companies even allow for the purchaser of insurance to buy uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in case an uninsured vehicle hits the rider.

Legal assistance

Segways are relatively rare in comparison to other forms of transportation. They are subject to a variety of laws in different states and cities. Due to this, caselaw and resources regarding potential lawsuits are very limited.  If you have been injured by a Segway on the sidewalk, be sure that you discuss it with a personal injury lawyer who is knowledgeable about the subject.

Updated 12/9/2021