Posted Friday 5th February 2021
Throughout 2020, in the UK there was a surge in the sales of electric scooters (e-scooters), despite the UK being one of the last countries in Europe where it is unlawful to use e-scooters on public roads, cycle lanes or pavements at present. There has been a call for new regulations to ensure e-scooter riders behave responsibly in order to keep UK roads safe.
Changes to UK government legislation last July 2020 by the Department for Transport (DfT) helped to fast track large-scale trials of rental e-scooters in the UK. The rules for privately owned e-scooters have not yet changed. The trials are intended to run for 12 months allowing and encouraging collaboration between the DfT, local authorities and e-scooter operators. As trials take place across the UK, we look into the current regulatory framework, as well as how the trials are developing and the current licensing requirements in the UK.
Classified as ‘powered transporters’ under UK law, e-scooters fall within the legal definition of a ‘motor vehicle’ in the UK and must follow the laws applicable to motor vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1988. These include being registered with the DVLA, licensed, taxed, insured and fitted with number plates; at present e-scooters cannot meet these requirements. This definition is also the reason that e-scooters cannot legally be used on pavements or cycle lanes. It is an offence to use powered transporters on the pavement under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835. At present, e-scooters can only legally be used on private land and only with the permission of the landowner.
As well as fast tracking the trials last summer, the Government, in light of Covid-19, has widened the scope of the scheme across the UK. Plans for the biggest trial of e-scooters in the UK were unveiled by Transport for London (TfL) last November. TfL issued an invitation to tender to select up to three operators to take part in trials starting in Spring 2021. Operators will be assessed on their ability to meet strict safety requirements and operating standards; they will also be required to provide critical data and to demonstrate their understanding of London’s transport goals.
Successful trials across Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Northamptonshire and Cambridge, which began last summer have given users a new mode of convenient and environmentally friendly transport. Working with local authorities, e-scooters’ operators and users have been complying with the specific conditions required, to maintain safe and successful roll-outs.
Where a rental e-scooter user is taking part in one of the UK government trials, there are several mandatory standards that must be satisfied by the user:
The rules of careless and dangerous driving apply to e-scooter users in the trials, and although rental e-scooter users taking part in the trials are not required to wear helmets, it is encouraged. Each city’s rules and needs have been customised, so these rules may vary.
E-scooters offer a ready to ride solution to users, helping to reduce congestion and provide flexibility for people around the world. Despite the rules for privately used e-scooters not yet changing, with trials now running across the UK it seems this step towards a greener revolution for urban mobility, by legalising rental e-scooters on UK public roads, is edging closer.
This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.