Electric Scooters – On the road? The pavement? Private property only?
This summer has seen the rapid rise of electric scooters on London’s roads and cycleways with many riders and pedestrians for that matter, unsure of exactly where they are and aren’t currently legally allowed to be ridden. In this post, we will discuss what the rules on electric scooter usage currently are, how they are likely to change in the near future and perhaps most importantly, why I think these changes should and will be made.
Starting with the present situation – electric scooters (or eScooters / e-scooters) are captured by the Highway Act 1835 due to their classification as a personal light electric vehicle (PLEV) by the Department for Transport. This essentially requires electric scooters to meet all the same requirements as motor vehicles; MOT, tax, licensing and construction (including visible red rear lights, number plates and signalling ability). As electric scooters do not meet these requirements they are therefore not road legal. These rules similarly prohibit their use on pavements and footpaths.
Sadly, this therefore means that legally electric scooters are limited to use on private property, leaving the UK languishing behind the likes of the US, Spain, France and China who are all embracing the electric scooter revolution that is helping to cut down on car use, traffic and air pollution. While we may be “leading the world in the battery technology that will help cut CO2 and tackle climate change” here in the UK according to Boris Johnson, we certainly are limiting it’s application currently.
For those of you still using electric scooters in the capital, our advice is to act with some good common sense such as ensuring you are not going too fast, that you have good control of your scooter, are wearing a helmet and have working lights if riding in the evenings or at night. This way, if you are stopped by the police, you should, certainly from what we have heard anecdotally, be more likely to receive a warning than the possible £300 fine and 6 points on your driving licence (for those of you who don’t hold a driving licence, these points will be waiting for you if you ever do apply for one in the future unfortunately).
Things are looking up however. Earlier this year the government concluded it’s consultation on the future of urban mobility which put much store in electric scooters and their potential to realise significant and tangible benefits to urban environments. While this outcome did not come as much of a surprise, given that approximately 56% of all car journeys are less than 5 miles in length and could easily be completed on significantly more efficient electric scooters. This was though, the first step on the road to legalisation with the second, being a review of which laws would be required updating, well underway.
Currently no timelines have been issued as to when this review will be concluded, nor any hints as to the outcome, but this is not surprising in my opinion. It is important to remember that this is a complex and multi-faceted issue which regulators are trying to square. The considerations that must be given to address safety and responsible usage concerns, factoring in not only the safety of the riders but also that of other users on the roads/pavements/pathways are admittedly numerous, yet the potential benefits in the context of the environmental challenges which are facing society, yield overwhelmingly more value and very much worth the effort if we get this right. (Please give my previous article a read if you are interested to learn more about the huge impact electric scooters have the potential to make on climate change, given that transportation is one of the largest constituents of a household’s CO2 impact.)
It is for this reason, alongside their other benefits such as; easing congestion and reducing transport costs for consumers, that I view the path to legalisation with tremendous excitement and optimism.
So what do we think legalisation may look like? I think we should expect to see speeds limits enforced with 20mph looking like a good bet. This speed enables scooters to be used for the vast majority of journey distances, without compromising on arrival times too drastically while removing the faster models and the dangers they pose to pedestrians from the system. Unlike other scooter advocates, I think legislation should limit their use to roads and cycleways like bicycles for all the same reasons and also permit drunk driving fines.
Suggestions have also been made that there should be some form of licensing requirement. Personally, I believe this provides too much to their adoption, thus limiting their benefits, without directly addressing an issue which could not be better addressed by another aspect of the guidance.
The measures above I believe are sensible and proportionate to address the vast majority of safety concerns while being simple enough so as to not put people off using them – the balance which I believe legislators should be striving for.
If this post manages to make its way to any individual within TfL or the DfT, I would love to talk to you about electric scooter usage in the UK. Please reach out to me via Linkedin or email me at [email protected]