What’s the future for e-scooters?

What are the rules around e-scooters? Yay, nay or wait and see?

19 Jul 2020

Seen the news about e-scooters? The government recently handed out guidance for trials with these nifty gadgets.

‘Wait- a trial?’ we hear you cry. Yes, even though you’ve probably seen the odd person riding them around, it might surprise you to know that e-scooters are actually illegal in the UK. That’s why the trials are here – to test them out properly on our roads to decide if, and how, the law should change.

And making them legal would be a welcome change for a lot of us. In fact, 55% of people say they think that e-scooters would be good for the environment. They’re totally electric, so don’t produce any nasty fumes or pollution. Plus, they’d get us out of taxis and cars for short trips. That means less congestion on the roads- see ya traffic jams.

There are also benefits for tackling the coronavirus. It’s much harder to catch it in the open air. So, more people travelling outside, rather than on buses, tubes and cars might hopefully cut down on its spread.

 

What’s the law now?

Thanks to a law from 1853, e-scooters are illegal to ride on roads, cycle lanes and pavements in this country. That’s because they count as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs). PLEVs have the same rules surrounding them as motorcycles or cars.

If you’re caught riding an e-scooter, you could face a pretty hefty fine… and the cost of your scooter when it’s confiscated. You could even get points on your licence!

Yep, you read that right. You actually need a provisional or full driving license to ride an e-scooter. Even though it might seem more like a bike, an e-scooter is closer to a motorbike under the law.

What is allowed though, is riding an e-scooter (personal or rental) on a privately-owned space. This legal quirk is why people have been able to rent e-scooters in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for some time now. It’s technically a private park, so people can scoot around to their heart’s content.

 

What’s happening with the trial?

From the 4th July, you’re allowed to use an e-scooter rental service. But don’t hop on your scooter just yet. The trials are only taking place in certain areas. That includes:

  • Darlington
  • Hartlepool
  • Middlesbrough
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • Stockton-on-Tees

And this trial doesn’t cover personal e-scooters- it’s still against the rules to hit the road with one. So if you’ve had your eye on an e-scooter, don’t go buying one just yet or it’ll be gathering cobwebs for a little while yet!

Instead, the trials will use rental services like Lime, Bird or Voi. That’s because you need to have insurance to ride an e-scooter. While it’s tricky for us to sort this insurance out ourselves, rental companies cover this for you. Better to rent than have loads of uninsured or unsafely made scooters hitting the road.

 

How do rental scooters work?

 

E-scooter renters work a bit like Santander Cycles in London. You use an app to find and pick up an e-scooter, pay per minute and when you’re done lock the scooter and leave it in a safe place.

Plus, there are some other rules to remember if your area’s taking part in the trial:

  • You’ll need to stick to the road and cycling lanes – no sailing down the pavement!
  • You need to be over 16 to ride an e-scooter
  • You have to have a valid provisional or full driving license
  • You can’t go any faster than 15.5 mph
  • And what about helmets? They’re encouraged but not compulsory.

Check out the full government guidelines here.

 

What does the future look like?

Of course nobody knows exactly what will happen after the trials end next year. But there is hope that e-scooter rentals schemes will be made fully legal… And then who knows? Maybe the law will be reformed enough to make it safe for private e-scooters on our roads.

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