Government consultation on safety of e-scooters on UK roads is expected to start this month
Sales of electric scooters jumped 50 per cent in 2019 at UK retailer Micro Scooters despite the vehicles being illegal to ride on UK roads and pavements.
The Colchester-based company also said enquiries were up 70 per cent compared to 2018, whilst Halfords said sales of electric bikes and vehicles jumped 96 per cent year on year in the 14 weeks to January 3 as consumers are keen to try out the new electric vehicles.
Fredrik Hjelm, CEO and founder of Swedish-based Voi, one of the best-funded start-ups in the scooter space, has called on the UK not to delay legislation regarding the vehicles. A Times report last week said ministers are expected to launch a consultation this month on how to regulate e-scooters and ensure safety.
Hjelm said: “We welcome the UK government’s commitment to innovating transport and we will participate fully in the forthcoming consultation. However, people are already buying and riding e-scooters, regardless of whether the law is changed. The government urgently needs to complete its review because until there is legislation, there is no way to insist on safety standards, higher quality scooters or reinforce good behaviour.”
The UK is only one of three countries in Europe where e-scooters are illegal to ride on public roads, along with the Republic of Ireland and Holland. Fans of the electric vehicles point to how they can help reduce reliance on cars in city centres. Research by Bird, another e-scooter start-up which is operating a trial on private land in Stratford, found that e-scooters and e-bikes could account for more than 20 per cent of trips taken in Paris by 2030. As e-scooters are more energy-efficient than cars, they can help cities to decrease their emissions.
Tens of thousands of people have taken part in Bird’s scooter pilot in the Olympic Park in Stratford since it launched in November 2018. A Bird spokesperson told the Standard: “In cities across the world electric scooters are helping reduce congestion and air pollution caused by cars. In the centre of London, the average speed of a car is now a little over 6mph, and the city suffers from increasingly poor air quality. It’s great that policymakers are going to consult on allowing electric scooters on the roads, as we desperately need more efficient ways of getting about our towns and cities.”
However, there are issues over the safety aspects of e-scooters. In July, a YouTuber and TV presenter was killed in a scooter crash with a lorry and in the same week, a 14-year-old was left fighting for his life after colliding with a bus stop. In addition, a study by the University of California San Francisco released in January showed that the number of scooter-related injuries and hospital admissions in the US grew by 222 per cent between 2014 and 2018. Of scooter riders that were injured, between 2 and 5 per cent of them were wearing helmets during their accidents.
When the UK does get round to its consultation of scooters, it’s expected to allow the electric vehicles to travel on roads and in bike lanes. Questions remain over whether riders will need to wear helmets in order to operate the vehicles as a way to ensure their personal safety on the move.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Safety is at the heart of our road laws, and people who use e-scooters need to be aware it is currently illegal to ride them on the road and the pavement. The government is considering the use of e-scooters and e-skateboards as part of a regulatory review in March.”
For Hjelm, the safe way to get people using e-scooters is when local authorities successfully regulate the service. “[This] encourages safe and responsible usage. It’s time for legislators to take action and begin to control a new form of transport that is already growing faster than authorities’ ability to restrict it,” he added.