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ST. LOUIS   •   Under a city ordinance on the books since 2001, riders of motorized scooters must wear a helmet.

The city also limits their use to streets and alleys, with riders generally required to stay as close to the righthand edge as possible. Sidewalks are off-limits except for parking, city officials said.

Both rules apply to the hundreds of rental electric scooters that popped up across the city in recent weeks under the auspices of rival California-based companies Lime and Bird.

Riders found guilty of violating the law can get up to a $500 fine or 90 days in jail or both.

How often will renters going helmet-less or scooting down a sidewalk actually be cited?

Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said whether to issue one is at the discretion of officers.

Asked whether enforcement of the scooter ordinance will be a high priority, he said in a text message that "reducing violent crime is our focus."

Nonetheless, he said, scooter riders are required to follow the law. And, he said, "we encourage everyone to wear a helmet."

The helmet law doesn't apply to bicyclists. They also can ride on city sidewalks in residential neighborhoods and some other areas. 

Officials with Lime and Bird each say customers are informed when they rent a scooter that a helmet is required and that sidewalk riding isn't allowed. That information also is on the scooters.

Both companies offer free helmets via mail for any customer requesting one. In Lime's case, that applies to both scooter and bicycle renters. Bird doesn't offer bike rentals.