E-scooters are still relative newcomers to the streets, but their story has evolved rapidly. E-scooters are popular as they are a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to motor vehicles and their use involves less physical effort than a bicycle. They are being utilised by many people, from school children, commuters, tourists and, of course, criminals. Crimes being committed by people utilising e-scooters, range from handbag and mobile phone snatches to street robberies. In many ways the use of e-scooters for crime purposes appears a cheap alternative and progression from the use of mopeds to conduct similar activity, an activity that has plagued many city centres in recent years.
On a day-to-day basis, our surveillance teams see e-scooters on our roads and on quite a few occasions, have seen them being ridden quite erratically with little respect for the traffic laws or fellow road users.
My old police colleagues have told me that the majority of people using e-scooters do not know the legislation and are totally unaware what they need to do before riding one.
There is legislation going through the courts at the moment, but here is the legislation as it stands today:
E-scooters come under the category of “powered transporters”; this covers a range of personal transport devices which are powered by a motor.
E-scooters are classed as motor vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1988. Which means the rules that apply to motor vehicles, also apply to e-scooters including the need to have a licence, insurance and tax.
It’s not currently possible to get insurance for privately owned e-scooters, which means it’s illegal to use them on the road or in public spaces. If you’re using a private e-scooter you risk the vehicle being seized under S.165 Road Traffic Act 1988 for no insurance.
If you cause serious harm to another person whilst riding an e-scooter the incident will be investigated in the same way it would if you were riding a motorcycle or driving a car.
Since 2021 trials of rental e-scooters have been taking place in the UK (providers are Lime, DOTT and TIER). Anyone using a rental e-scooter on a public road or other public space, has to comply with the relevant road traffic legislation or they face potential prosecution.
Rental e-scooters used in the London trial have a max speed of 15.5mph – and will automatically decrease to 8mph in dedicated ‘go slow’ areas. This makes it safer for public road use, in comparison to privately-owned e-scooters, which can sometimes reach speeds in excess of 50mph.
To rent an e-scooter you must:
be at least 16 years old (TfL state 18 although it’s 16 as per the legislation)
hold the correct driving licence (category Q or P/M)
create an account with the rental company
they can only be used in approved areas.
Where a trial rental scheme is running, it’s legal to use a rental e-scooter on a public road or cycle lane, provided you have the correct licence and follow road traffic regulations.
If you don’t have a licence, or the correct licence, or are riding without insurance you could face a Fixed Penalty notice:
with a £300 fine and six penalty points on your licence for having no insurance
up to £100 fine and three to six penalty points for riding without the correct licence
You could also be committing an offence if you’re caught:
riding on a pavement; Fixed Penalty Notice and possible £50 fine
using a mobile phone or other handheld mobile device while riding; £200 and six penalty points
riding through red lights; Fixed Penalty Notice, £100 fine and possible penalty points
drink driving: the same as if you were driving a car, you could face court-imposed fines, a driving ban and possible imprisonment
IF you do use an e-scooter as part of the current trials, we would always recommend wearing safety protection such as a helmet, keep to the speed limit and follow traffic laws.
Many people have concerns over allowing e-scooters to be used on the roads especially if private ownership rules are relaxed. A study commissioned by Transport for London (TfL) indicates that riding an e-scooter could be 100 times more dangerous than riding a bicycle, and that riders require medical treatment for injuries sustained in accidents on average every 3.1 years of use. In a You-Gov poll in 2021, some 54% of people think that the legalisation of E-scooters would actually make traffic on the roads worse, compared to 27% who don’t think they will make much of a difference. Only 8% of people think the use of E-scooters would make things better.
With the rise of e-scooters there has been the rise of related accidents, some fatal. On pavements, e-scooters pose dangers to pedestrians and wheelchair users – and particularly people who are blind and partially sighted. But using the scooters on roads without sufficient infrastructure such as cycle lanes is also risky, especially due to lack of regulations. Even when not in use, e-scooters can be hazardous: most sharing services are dockless, resulting in scooters being discarded on footpaths, causing obstructions
The debate will no doubt continue but there are serious questions and issues that will arise from legalising e-scooters, particularly concerning how they interact with other forms of vehicles – ultimately do the benefits of e-scooters outweigh the concerns and issues?