Electric scooters, or e-scooters, have taken the United Kingdom by storm as they provide a quick, convenient, and environmentally-friendly means of transport for short journeys. However, as their popularity continues to rise, so too do concerns about their potential dangers, both to riders and the public.
This following blog post will explore the potential dangers of e-scooters, with a focus on UK law and the implications of their use in Britain.
Legal status and risks
Currently, e-scooters fall under the category of Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs) in the UK. PLEVs are subject to certain restrictions, such as not being allowed on public roads, pavements, or cycle lanes. This poses a significant challenge for e-scooter users, as they often have to navigate these areas to reach their destination.
As a result, many e-scooter riders take risks by using them illegally on public roads or pavements, putting themselves and others in danger. In July 2020, the UK government launched a trial scheme to assess the viability of legalising e-scooters on public roads. However, this trial is limited to rental e-scooters, and private e-scooters remain illegal for use on public roads and pavements.
The lack of infrastructure specifically designed for e-scooters in the UK exacerbates their potential dangers. As mentioned earlier, e-scooters are not legally allowed on public roads, pavements, or cycle lanes, leaving riders with limited options for safe and legal travel.
Although the UK government has started investing in cycling infrastructure, there is still a significant gap in terms of providing adequate and safe spaces for e-scooter riders. The absence of designated e-scooter lanes or parking facilities further contributes to the risks associated with their use.
E-scooter accidents have been reported across the UK, with some resulting in serious injuries or even fatalities. Many of these accidents can be attributed to factors such as inadequate infrastructure, inexperienced riders, and insufficient safety measures on the e-scooters themselves.
One particular concern is the lack of a mandatory helmet law for e-scooter riders. While some e-scooter rental companies provide helmets, there is no legal requirement for riders to wear them. This increases the risk of head injuries in the event of an accident.
Additionally, e-scooters' small wheels and low-to-the-ground designs make them more susceptible to hazards such as potholes, debris, and uneven surfaces. This can lead to accidents and injuries, especially for inexperienced riders who may not be able to react quickly enough to avoid these obstacles.
E-scooters have also been criticised for contributing to clutter and obstruction on pavements and public spaces. Inconsiderate parking of e-scooters can cause problems for pedestrians, particularly those with mobility issues or visual impairments. Furthermore, e-scooter riders who use pavements illegally can pose a risk to pedestrians, especially in busy urban areas. Companies who run e-scooter trials give clear instructions to those who are using their service to protect riders and pedestrians but this does not necessarily mean that the instructions are followed.
While e-scooters are often touted as a green alternative to traditional modes of transport, their environmental impact should not be overlooked. The production, maintenance, and disposal of e-scooters contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion.
Additionally, the lithium-ion batteries used in e-scooters have a limited lifespan and pose challenges in terms of disposal and recycling. The environmental impact of e-scooters could be reduced by improving their design and durability, as well as implementing better recycling schemes for their components.
Mitigating the potential dangers of e-scooters
To address the potential dangers associated with e-scooters, the UK government and local authorities should consider implementing the following measures:
Review and update legislation
Revisiting the legal status of e-scooters is crucial in order to accommodate their growing popularity and minimise the risks associated with their use. By updating legislation to allow e-scooters on public roads and cycle lanes, riders would be provided with safer and more suitable spaces for travel. Additionally, introducing mandatory helmet laws for e-scooter riders could help reduce the risk of serious head injuries in the event of an accident.
Investing in infrastructure specifically designed for e-scooters would significantly enhance their safety. The creation of dedicated e-scooter lanes, as well as the integration of e-scooters into existing cycle lane networks, would provide riders with safer and more accessible routes. Furthermore, the provision of designated e-scooter parking facilities would help to alleviate the issues of pavement clutter and obstruction.
Enhance safety features
Manufacturers should be encouraged to improve the safety features of e-scooters, which could be done by incorporating more effective braking systems, better lighting, and more visible designs. Additionally, the development of e-scooters with larger wheels and improved suspension could help to reduce the risk of accidents caused by uneven surfaces and road debris.
Education and awareness campaigns
Promoting education and awareness around e-scooter safety is vital for reducing accidents and injuries. This could include public information campaigns that highlight the legal requirements for e-scooter use, as well as providing guidance on safe riding practices. Rental e-scooter companies should also be encouraged to provide safety information and training for their users, ensuring that riders are well-equipped to navigate the urban environment safely.
Encourage sustainable e-scooter production and disposal
In order to minimise the environmental impact of e-scooters, manufacturers should be encouraged to adopt sustainable production practices and to design e-scooters with longevity and recyclability in mind. Furthermore, the implementation of effective recycling schemes for e-scooter components, particularly lithium-ion batteries, would help to reduce waste and promote a circular economy.
E-scooters have the potential to revolutionise urban transport, offering a convenient and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional modes of transport. However, their use also presents a number of potential dangers, which must be addressed in order to ensure their safe and sustainable integration into the UK's transport landscape. By updating legislation, investing in infrastructure, enhancing safety features, promoting education and awareness, and encouraging sustainable production practices, the potential dangers associated with e-scooters can be mitigated, allowing their continued growth and positive impact on urban mobility.
Useful precautions to take when using an e scooter
Ultimately it is a matter of personal responsibility when using an e scooter, and you should always assess the risk yourself. You may however find the following suggestions useful:
- Wear protective gear such as a safety helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads
- Don light-coloured or fluorescent clothing to ensure visibility to other road users
- Remain vigilant of your surroundings and avoid travelling at excessive speeds when passing pedestrians
- Refrain from riding an e-scooter on the pavement
The supplementary safety guidance provided by the government for e-scooter renters at present encompasses, but is not limited to: "e-scooters should only be used within the designated areas and following the appropriate guidelines" and "e-scooters should only be used by one person at a time".