The Transport Select Committee has urged the government to legalise e-scooters in the UK to cut the number of cars on the roads - a move which would also help the environment. As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, people are being urged to avoid public transport and therefore e-scooters could be a much needed alternative mode of transport which allows for social distancing.
Why aren’t e-scooters legal in the UK?
Whilst it is legal to own an e-scooter, it is illegal to use them on public roads, pavements, in cycle lanes and in pedestrian-only areas. They are currently classed as ‘personalised light electric vehicles (PLEVs) and fall under the same laws and regulations that apply to all motor vehicles. They would only be legal on public roads if they could meet the same requirements as motor vehicles (e.g. insurance, tax, license and registration) which they currently cannot do.
E-scooters are legal and popular across the world in cities such as San Francisco, Paris, Berlin and New York. The UK is one of the last European countries where they are still illegal.
There are currently e-scooter trials in Tees Valley, Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire, the West Midlands, Greater Norwich, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Liverpool and Redditch.
E-scooters in these trial areas are limited to a maximum speed of 15.5mph but it is also being considered if a lower maximum speed limit should be 12.5mph which is the same speed limit applied in other European countries. Users must hold a full or provisional driving licence to participate in the trial. However, the Transport Committee has published a list of recommendations including the removal of the requirement for this to be consistent with practice in most places around the world.
Is e-scooter insurance required?
Insurance must be provided for e-scooters. In the trial areas this is provided by the e-scooter rental operator.
Whilst the use of helmets and reflective clothing are recommended, they are not a legal requirement.
When could e-scooters be legal on our roads?
MPs have called for the government to take swift action and then e-scooters could become legal forms of transport on our roads and cycle lanes by spring 2022.
The Transport Committee hopes that if e-scooters are legalised, they could be used to replace shorter car journeys. They have the potential to offer a low cost, accessible and environmentally friendly alternative mode of transport.
Disability campaigners have however raised concerns following the Committee’s recommendations for the legalisation of e-scooters as they pose a hazard, particularly to those who are visually impaired. A rental e-scooter trial in Coventry was recently paused after only 5 days because users were seen illegally mounting the pavement and riding in shopping areas. The safety of all road users needs to therefore be seriously considered by the government if any law changes are made.
A Department of Transport spokesperson has said: “Safety will always be our top priority and our current trials are allowing us to better understand the benefits of e-scooters and their impact on public space, helping us to design future regulations.”