The public has long debated the use of Electric Scooters on roads and footpaths. The UK law is clear under the Department of Transport Road Traffic act 1988 which deems that ‘powered transporters’ including electric scooters are illegal for use on pavements and footpaths.
Similarly, electric scooters (powered transporters) are defined as ‘a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads’ is subject to motor vehicle laws. This law outlines that similar to cars, vans and motorcycles, they also require registration and applicable tax.
There is a caveat to this requirement which means that electric scooters fall into grey area as they are also classed as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs) and as such are potentially exempt from the registration and taxation requirements under the wider legislation.
On Saturday 9th May 2020, Grant Shapps announced a fast track review of the law which would see trials of the electric scooter rental scheme fast-tracked from 2021 to June 2020. This fast track review would bring forward trials to all regions of the United Kingdom rather than the previously stated 4 Cities of Portsmouth, Southampton, Derby and Nottingham in an attempt to speed up the national roll out of the scooter rental scheme.
In addition, it was also noted that the trial would not extend to private individuals who own electric scooters, but would only apply to local authorities who wanted to operate schemes in partnership with electric scooter firms such as Lime and Bird.
The wider question will be whether the general public will eventually be allowed to take their own scooters onto roads and footpaths after these trials have concluded. Many elements have to be taken into consideration as Countries who have already passed the laws for highway use have already experienced, rider and pedestrian safety being the most prominent of considerations.
There are obvious benefits to the change in law for e-scooters, especially as the authorities battle with allowing people to return to work post-lockdown facing the challenges of social distancing on public transport.
Whether this law changes or not, the UK needs a more flexible, economical, environmentally friendly mode of transport which also offers a solution for a reduction in congestion.
For further information please see the resources below:-
Business Insider Article on Grant Shapps Announcement
Dept of Transport Guidance on Powered Transporters
ROSPA Overview of Electric Scooter trials and legal definitions