San Francisco, CA, USA - August 25, 2016: A tour guide running Segway on the downtown street of San Francisco.

Bikes aren’t just bikes anymore. There are hundreds of variations available once you cross ‘car’ off of your list of preferred default vehicle. But it can be difficult to know what the legal situation is involving your bicycle. A Segway, an e-bike, and a unicycle have a lot in common, but the law enforcement pulling up behind you might see it differently.

Where is it safe to ride your ‘not a bike’?

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to bike alternatives. Even the laws regarding traditional bikes can get a bit hard to nail down. That means your best option is to call up your city and your county and ask what the rules are. E-bikes, for example, are usually forbidden from the sidewalks even when manual bikes are allowed. There may be no specific law for unicycles. No matter what your specific vehicle is and where you plan on riding it, get the answer in writing, and make sure you have the answer for anywhere you might use it.

Why is the local government your best source of information?

Different laws are written for different people. The bike store where you got your ‘not a bike’ sees distinctions very differently from how you, the consumer, has to see them. They are more concerned about the technical definitions about what they’re allowed to sell to whom and with what addendums, not where you’re allowed to use it. The same vehicle might even be called two different things based on which set of rules you’re looking at.

But getting the word from your government is the best solution. It comes straight from the source. It shows preparation. If you think you’re doing the right thing and you have the email to substantiate that, you’re usually going to be fine rather than fined.

For more bike tips, browse our articles at the Law Office of Gary Brustin.