Will e-scooters be legal on UK roads soon?
As lockdowns across the four nations lift the Department of Transport wants to encourage more people off public transport and onto greener alternatives, like e-scooters.
The government will soon be trialling e-scooter hire schemes around the country.
But are e-scooters legal?
Yes, electric scooters are legal to own and ride, but only on private land.
So if you’re using them on a public road that is an offence and you can be fined or receive points on a driving licence.
How will the e-scooter rental trial work?
Before the government can decide whether to fully legalise e-scooters and figure out the rules that should apply to them – such as will you need a licence – the government is going to start trialing e-scooter hire schemes in a few areas around the country in order to understand their impacts.
However, you’ll only be able to use the rental e-scooters in these areas, not your own.
Are e-scooters safe?
Electric scooters can reach speeds of over 30mph, most are limited to around 15mph, but there are concerns around the safety of their designs.
Dr Adam Snow, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: “The government needs to get to grips with manufacturing and authorisation of safely designed scooters present.”
“There are no appropriate safeguards on the design and critical safety features, shock absorption wheel and tyre design, safe braking systems, et cetera.”
Some e-scooters only have single brakes and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) believe the design of many hire e-scooters, such as small wheels and narrow handlebars, makes them inherently unsafe – especially when navigating busy roads.
Are e-scooter accidents common?
Dr Snow said: “In the largest study to date in the US it was estimated there would be approximately 22 road deaths per a hundred thousand population.”
“To put that into perspective in the UK, that figure for all road deaths, regardless of mode of travel is approximately three per hundred thousand,” he added.
It’s difficult to cross compare countries, in the UK it is believed that there has only been one e-scooter fatality.
But studies in Denmark concluded that e-scooter riders suffer much higher rates of head injury compared to cyclists because of their standing position, which means they’re more likely to be thrown forward more quickly.
How can e-scooters be made safer?
Dr Snow said: “All the safety studies so far, and there aren’t that many, suggest at the very least helmets should be mandatory and protective gear is a must.”
But campaigners who want e-scooters on our roads say we have bigger safety concerns.
London Cycling Campaign’s, Tom Bogdanowicz, said: “The primary road danger to both e-scooters and cyclists are the larger vehicles, lorries and cars and the best way of reducing that danger is by separating the small from the large.”
He adds: “So we are likely to need many more of those cycle tracks cycle lanes that are popping up all over the country.”
Do e-scooters offer a greener solution to road travel?
London’s Cycling Campaign said there are several benefits to e-scooters.
Mr Bogdanowicz said: “The benefits of e-scooters to individuals are lower journey times and lower costs compared to cars.”
He adds: “The benefits to the rest of us are better air quality, less congestion, and fewer carbon emissions, which is why we support their legalisation.”
But not everyone believes they’ll make a dent in the amount of cars on our roads.
Dr Snow said: “In terms of change of use from cars to e-scooters. It’s unlikely to produce any great change in use because they are how or have limited functionality really where an e-scooter does the best are in those very short journeys from say home to the train station or short city hops.”
The Department of Transport is yet to reveal the areas where the e-scooter trials will take place, but the announcement is expected within the next few weeks.