Can you legally ride an electric scooter on the road?

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Can you legally ride an electric scooter on the road?

Electric scooters, or e-scooters, have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their convenience, low environmental impact, and fun factor. However, there has been some confusion surrounding their legality and the regulations governing their use on UK roads. This article aims to provide clarity on the legal status of e-scooters in the United Kingdom, and where they can and cannot be ridden.

E-Scooters and the Law

Electric scooters are legal to own in the UK, however there are a lot of restrictions surrounding where they can be used. At present, there is no specific legislation governing e-scooters, which are instead categorised as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs). As such, they are subject to the same laws and regulations as motor vehicles, including requirements for MOT, taxation, licensing, and construction standards. However, due to the absence of essential safety features, such as visible rear red lights, number plates, or signalling capabilities on e-scooters, they are not legally allowed on roads.

Private electric scooters are only permitted for use on private property and are not allowed on public roads, bike lanes, or pavements. The only exception for using e-scooters on public roads involves those that are rented through government-endorsed trial programmes.

Electric Scooters and Pavements

As stated in the previous section, electric scooters are presently classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs) by the government, which subjects them to the same laws and regulations applicable to all motor vehicles. As a result, their use on pavements, bike lanes, and pedestrian-only zones is prohibited. It would only be legal to operate them on public roads if they could fulfill the same requirements as motor vehicles (e.g., insurance, tax, licensing, registration, and vehicle construction). However, this is unattainable in most cases.

Privately-Owned Electric Scooters

Under UK law, privately-owned e-scooters are considered motor vehicles. As such, they are subject to the same laws and regulations that apply to cars, motorcycles, and other motorised vehicles. These laws include requirements for vehicle tax, registration, insurance, and the possession of a valid driving licence.

However, most e-scooters on the market do not meet the legal requirements for motor vehicles in the UK. Consequently, they are not allowed on public roads, pavements, cycle lanes, or pedestrian areas. Riding a privately-owned e-scooter in any of these areas is against the law and can result in penalties, such as fines, penalty points on your driving licence, or even seizure of the e-scooter by the police.

E-Scooter Rental Schemes

In 2020, the UK government introduced trials of e-scooter rental schemes to explore the potential benefits and challenges associated with the widespread use of e-scooters.

During these trials, e-scooters can be rented and ridden on public roads, provided they adhere to certain criteria. The rental e-scooters must:

  • Be limited to a maximum speed of 15.5 mph (25 km/h)
  • Be equipped with front and rear lights, as well as reflectors
  • Have motor power not exceeding 500W
  • Have no provision for seating (i.e., they must be designed for standing use only)
  • Users of rental e-scooters must also meet specific requirements, including:
  • Being at least 16 years old
  • Holding a valid provisional or full UK driving licence (category Q entitlement is sufficient)
  • Wearing a helmet while on an electric scooter is recommended, but not legally required

It is important to note that the rental e-scooter trials are limited to certain areas and local authorities within the UK. To legally ride a rental e-scooter on public roads, you must be within an approved trial area.

Consequences of Riding Electric Scooters Illegally

If you are caught riding a privately-owned e-scooter on public roads or pavements, you may face a range of penalties. These can include:

  • A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for riding on the pavement, which can carry a fine of up to £300
  • A fine of up to £1,000 for riding without insurance
  • A fine of up to £1,000 for riding without a valid driving licence
  • Penalty points on your driving licence
  • Seizure and possible destruction of the e-scooter

It is important to be aware of these potential consequences and to ensure that you are using an e-scooter legally and safely.

Since the summer of 2020, electric scooter rental trials have been conducted in various locations across the UK. Local councils have collaborated with rental providers to assess the safety and effectiveness of e-scooters as a mode of transportation.

The trial period has been extended until November 2022 in order to gather as much information as possible. Following this, the government is expected to initiate another consultation phase before proposing any official changes to the law.

The upcoming Transport Bill, introduced in the Queen's speech on May 10th 2022, is set to legalise private electric scooters for use on public roads throughout the UK. The speech highlighted the government's commitment to improving transportation across the country, focusing on safety, cleanliness, and innovation.

On May 11th 2022, in the House of Lords, Baroness Vere (Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Transport) stated that the Transport Bill aims to establish a low-speed, zero-emission vehicle category separate from the existing cycle and motor vehicle categories. This new category would grant the government the authority to determine which vehicles belong in this category and how they should be regulated for safety. E-scooters are anticipated to be the first of these vehicles.

Although no specific timeline for the legalsation of e-scooters has been provided, the UK government intends to work on the necessary regulations over the course of the upcoming year to enable e-scooter legalization.

E-Scooters on Private Land

One of the few places where privately-owned e-scooters can be used without legal restrictions is on private land, with the permission of the landowner. This means that if you own an e-scooter, you are free to ride it on your own property or on the property of someone who has given you permission to do so. However, you must still exercise caution and ensure that you are using the e-scooter safely to avoid accidents or injuries.

Electric Scooters and Public Transport

E-scooters, whether privately-owned or rented, are generally not allowed on public transport in the UK. This includes buses, trains and trams. Some train operators may allow e-scooters as luggage if they are folded and stored appropriately, but it is essential to check with the specific operator before attempting to bring an e-scooter on board. Furthermore, riding e-scooters on platforms or in stations is strictly prohibited.

Electric Scooters and Safety

Regardless of whether you are using a privately-owned e-scooter on private land or a rental e-scooter in an approved trial area, it is crucial to prioritise safety. To ride an e-scooter safely, some recommended safety practices include:

  • Wearing a helmet on an electric scooter, even though it is not legally required
  • Wearing high-visibility clothing or accessories to ensure you are visible to other road users
  • Using lights and reflectors, especially when riding in low-light conditions
  • Adhering to the Highway Code and observing traffic signals and road markings
  • Being aware of and respecting pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users
  • Avoiding distractions, such as using a mobile phone while riding
  • Ensuring that the e-scooter is well-maintained and in good working order

The Future of E-Scooter Legislation in the UK

Given the growing popularity of e-scooters and their potential environmental and mobility benefits, it is possible that the UK government may reconsider the current restrictions on privately-owned e-scooters in the future. The ongoing rental e-scooter trials will likely play a significant role in shaping future legislation, as they provide valuable insights into the practicalities, benefits, and challenges of widespread e-scooter use.

Until any changes are made to the current legislation, it is crucial for e-scooter users to be aware of the existing laws and regulations, and to use e-scooters responsibly and legally.

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