I truly believe most people do not know that it is against the law to ride their own e-scooters in public spaces. It is only legal to use a privately-owned e-scooter on private land with the permission of the land owner. Yet they are a daily sight in towns and city centres up and down the country.
We are still waiting for news on how the Government intends to regulate the use of privately-owned e-scooters. November’s King’s Speech came and went without a single mention of them, despite these electric vehicles being involved in more than 1,400 collisions in the last calendar year alone.
Private e-scooters are still illegal to ride on public roads, and yet, given the number of people doing exactly that, this law has either been badly communicated or poorly enforced. E-scooters can be bought from a wide range of stores within the UK, including Halfords and Currys. However, online at least, the warnings that these expensive purchases cannot be used at all on public roads are very discreet. In the case of Halfords, a small banner appears warning you e-scooters are illegal on public roads, whereas on Currys’ website, this information is at the bottom of the ‘Product Information’ section, in small font. Despite these lackadaisical warnings, punishments for illegally riding e-scooters can be serious, including a fine, penalty points on your driving licence, or having your e-scooter seized.
The key problem though, is the threat to the safety of e-scooter riders and other road users and pedestrians. In 2022 alone, 12 people were killed by e-scooters, and a further 1,480 people injured - both all-time highs for the UK. These damning statistics underscore the serious need for a regulatory framework that addresses the risks of these newly popularised machines.
APIL recommends that people who do not already hold a full or provisional driving licence should have to undertake a driving proficiency test, similar to a driving theory test, before they are allowed to ride an e-scooter. Secondly, it is baffling that there is no legal requirement to wear a helmet on e-scooters. A study by Queen Mary University, published in March, found that most critical injuries sustained by e-scooter riders were head injuries.
Insurance should also be compulsory. Given the speeds of e-scooters, they need to be treated like fully-licenced road vehicles. Insurance and accountability of riders would be a good first step in tackling the immediate and ever-present danger to life that unregulated e-scooters represent.
People who wish to ride e-scooters legally can currently do so through the many rental schemes available in various cities across the UK. This system has recently been extended until May 2024 to allow the Government to do more testing and gather more data. Rental e-scooters are a fun, cheap, and environmentally friendly way to roam a city and are far better regulated than private ones. For example, rental e-scooters are limited to a maximum speed of 15.5mph, and many of the companies operating these rental schemes, such as Lime and Voi, have their own insurance policies in place. However, these schemes are not perfect as many e-scooters are often haphazardly discarded on the pavement with little thought for the elderly or those with impaired vision, so improvements can be made.
This further delay on e-scooter regulation is an unwelcome one given the law has already been slow to catch up to the risks associated with these vehicles. The sooner regulations such as the ones outlined above are introduced, the safer the streets will be.