Electric scooters finally become legal in the UK from today, but there’s a catch
ELECTRIC SCOOTERS will take their first tentative steps towards becoming legal in the UK next week. The early trials are designed to evaluate whether e-scooters could be a safe and green way method of travel. As it stands, UK only allows rental companies to offer electric bikes.
Electric scooters have finally arrived in Blighty. Well, sort of.
After taking over pavements in other neighbouring European countries and cities across the United States, the battery-powered revolution will finally arrive in the UK from next week. The Department for Transport will make the first batch of electric scooters, also referred to as e-scooters, available for hire in Middlesbrough for a limited trial. All being well, it could be the start of the battery powered-vehicles becoming legal nationwide.
Provided the initial trials are successful, more schemes could be rolled out in the next few months. According to the Government, more than 50 council areas have already expressed an interest in e-scooter schemes.
Due to a change in the law, electric scooters will be limited to rentals for the time being. So while you’ll be able to book an e-scooter with a smartphone app and charge around town on the battery-powered vehicle, owning one outright still won’t be possible. If you’re a particular fan of electric scooters, this could make it a pretty pricey habit.
Not as pricey as riding one that you own outright, where the police have the power to confiscate the vehicle – and you could be fined.
Retailers claim the sale of electric scooters has surged in recent months as people have interrupted the green light for rental as an indication that private ownership will be permitted in the near future. Halford Chief Executive Graham Stapleton told The Times that scooters had been “flying off the shelves” over the past week and sales have doubled over the last year.
The Department of Transport said it is only permitting rental schemes “to avoid a flood of poor-quality scooters on the streets”.
If you do fancy testing out an electric scooter, you’ll need to have at least a provisional or moped licence. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons that the government had to insist on a licence because of a 19th century law that outlawed “mechanically propelled vehicles” on footways or cycleways.
As with electric bikes, the top speed will be limited to 15.5mph and you won’t be able to use them on the pavements. Helmets aren’t required by law, but as you’ll be on the road and travelling at 15mph, it’s something most riders should probably consider.
Despite only being available in a limited test site at the moment, companies have already reported a surge in interest around rentals. Some 100,000 people have downloaded an app from Scandinavian e-scooter company, Voi. Competitor Lime has said that its app was opened more than 180,000 times in London last month – despite currently only offering electric bike rentals.
E Scooters – UK Legality
At the moment the use of electric scooters is not legal and they can’t be used on UK Roads, UK Footpaths, UK City Cycle lanes & Routes in the UK.They are only permitted to be used on private land with the land owners permission.We are hopeful this will change in the very near future as other EU countries have embraced the e scooter as a daily form of transportation.
Is it Legal to Ride an Electric Scooter in the UK?
The fact electric scooters are becoming more popular in the UK does not mean they are legal to use here. We explain exactly what is and is not allowed in the UK.
It’s interesting that in a survey conducted by BSB Solicitors only a quarter of Brits were able to correctly identify that electric scooters are illegal for use anywhere in the UK other than on private land, especially when you take into account that the market for them has never been bigger.
Electric scooters – kick-scooters that also build in a low-power motor – are classified as PLEVs, or Personal Light Electric Vehicles. They are not subject to taxes or registration, and as such cannot legally be used on the road in the UK, although this could be changing very soon – more on that later.
The current ruling seems hideously out-of-date, particularly when you consider that electric scooters typically go only slightly faster than the non-electric scooters favoured by many kids on route to school or even adults during their commute.
However, because they are motorised and have no pedals they are illegal for use on cycle lanes and pavements, and because they are low-powered they are illegal for use on the road.
If you are riding an electric scooter responsibly and showing due care to pedestrians and road users, we find it unlikely that you will be pulled over by the police. But if you are caught, you face an on-the-spot penalty of £300 and six points on your driving licence.
So how likely is that to happen?
Will the police seize your electric scooter or fine you for riding it?
In July 2019 we began seeing reports in the national news of the Metropolitan Police seizing electric scooters and dishing out fines and warnings to those riding them. This action followed the death of TV presenter Emily Hartridge, who was tragically killed in a collision with a lorry while riding an electric scooter.
The Telegraph reports that as a result of the Met’s first operation targeting electric scooters almost 100 people in London were pulled over. Of those 100, however, only 10 were fined and had their scooters seized, a decision that was made because they were acting irresponsibly, for example speeding or breaking red lights, rather than riding them in the first place.
But while the Met is acting against – at the very least – irresponsible riders, the same can’t necessarily be said for police forces elsewhere in the country.
Tech Advisor spoke to Ed Wiles, founder of Scootered.co.uk, whose own research suggests it is really only London police forces that are currently taking action. Having submitted FOI requests to every UK police force, only City of London has so far confirmed that it has seized a single scooter.
Wiles also notes that seized scooters can be recovered from the vehicle recovery unit at a cost.
While The Times reported about a Government initiative to legalise eScooters back in January 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic seemingly put the brakes on plans – or so we thought.
During the Government daily Coronavirus briefing on 9 May 2020, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed that plans to evaluate electric scooters in the UK had been brought forward to June 2020, and that the scheme will be nationwide and not specific to four regions as originally planned.
The Transport Secretary made the announcement amidst other plans to address changes to the UK’s public transport infrastructure as lockdown measures are eased, to avoid mass build-ups on trains and buses. Members of the public are advised to walk, cycle and soon, eScoot to work where possible.
There are limitations to the eScooter trial though. According to gov.uk, the trial seems to be focused on rental electric and not those that are privately owned. The main reason for this, we imagine, is the current proposed speed limit of 12.5mph – 3mph slower than most privately owned electric scooters, which clock in at 15.5mph. It might seem slow compared to electric bikes, which offer speeds of 15.5mph, but the electric scooter speed limit is in line with countries including France, Germany and Denmark. It is considering the 15.5mph limit though, and is taking evidence from private companies up until 2 June to support the argument.
Even if you do decide to hop on a rental electric scooter during the trial, you have to hold either a provisional or full UK drivers license, have insurance for the scooter and be aged 16 or over.
While that doesn’t bode well for those of us who already own electric scooters, it’s worth noting that some restrictions are only in place for the trial period, and it’s likely that privately-owned scooters will be legalised further down the road.
There’s a question around whether riders will need to wear a helmet when riding an electric scooter. According to the latest Government guidelines, which cover the UK trials, it’s recommended you wear a helmet – but it’s not required by law.
Where are electric scooters legal?
While the UK has been slow to adopt electric scooters as a form of transport, other European countries are taking a much more modern approach to things. In France a PLEV can go up to 25km/hour in a cycle lane, while Austria and Switzerland additionally extend this to road use. In France and Germany, a PLEV can also go up to 6km/hour on the pavement.
The US State of California is also accepting of PLEVs in cycle lanes and on pavements and roads, provided the riders are over 16 and wearing a helmet. By comparison, riding a PLEV in New York City will land you a $500 fine.
What alternatives do you have?
It seems unfair, but it’s worth noting that EAPCs (e-bikes) are treated in the eyes of the law as standard bikes provided they have pedals, go under 25km/hour, have working front and rear brakes at all times, lights and reflectors at night, and motors rated no higher than 250W. An electric scooter can meet many – but not all – of these requirements.
There is a lot of confusion among consumers regarding whether an electric scooter is classed as a moped, and it’s likely that this is due to their similarities with the more expensive and significantly faster GoPeds which were popular a few years back.
GoPeds are treated as mopeds in UK law, which means you cannot ride them on the pavement and if you wish to do so on the road they must be road-legal, taxed and insured. The rider must also be over the age of 16 and wearing a helmet.
Electric scooters to get green light to go on Britain’s public roads
Legalisation of e-scooters part of government’s wider plan for ‘transport revolution’
Electric scooters will be allowed on public roads for the first time under a Department for Transport proposal which will consult on the rules required to allow the new technology to operate safely, the government has announced.
The legalisation of e-scooters is just one proposal in a wider plan to enable a “transport revolution”, which also involves projects to trial medical deliveries to the Isle of Wight using autonomous drones, and a test of self-driving cars between Bristol and Bath.
But the scooters, which are already in widespread, if unlawful, use across the UK, will initially only be allowed in four “future transport zones”: Portsmouth and Southampton; the West of England Combined Authority (WECA); Derby and Nottingham; and the West Midlands.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the emerging technologies were “ripping up the rule book”.
“This review will ensure we understand the potential impacts of a wide range of new transport types such as e-scooters, helping to properly inform any decisions on legalisation.”
In other countries, electronic scooters have become strongly associated with rental apps, such as Lime, Bird, and the Uber subsidiary Jump. However, the legal situation has prevented them from operating e-scooters in the UK, except for Bird, which found a loophole that allowed the company to trial a service that remained exclusively on private land in London’s Olympic Park.
Lime, which runs an electric bike rental scheme in the UK, welcomed the news. The company’s director of UK policy and government affairs, Alan Clarke, said: “We’re delighted that the government is exploring offering greener ways to travel.
“Shared electric scooters are a safe, emission-free, affordable and convenient way of getting around. They help take cars off the road, with around a quarter of e-scooter trips replacing a car journey, cutting congestion and reducing air pollution.”
The government needs to amend legislation before the pilot schemes can begin, however, meaning it will be several months until e-scooters are allowed on UK roads. Under current laws, powered transport must fall into one of three broad categories: cars and motorcycles, which require licences, MOT checks and registration; electric bikes, which are effectively treated as normal bicycles provided they are pedal-assist; and electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters, which have a special allowance to be used on pavements.
The trial will assess what new restrictions should be put in place, such as a minimum age for riders, speed limits, licensing, insurance and helmets.
Other topics include minimum design standards, whether they should be allowed in cycle lanes, and what powers local authorities should have to manage e-scooter hire firms.
The absence of legislation enabling legal use of e-scooters on public roads has not prevented them being sold in Britain, however. The YouTube star and TV presenter Emily Hartridge became the first person in the UK to be killed while riding an e-scooter when she was struck by a lorry in Battersea, south London, in July last year, and the Metropolitan police stopped nearly 100 riders in London in a single week last summer.