Over the past few years, electric scooters have become a common sight on the streets of the UK, despite much confusion over their legal status.
In addition to being a greener alternative to cars and motorbikes, e-scooters are less physical than cycling or walking. In addition to being relatively cheap, they are also appealing to younger users. Despite their increasing presence on streets, bike lanes, and sidewalks, should they even exist?
We’ve compiled all the information you need to know about e-scooters in the UK – including what is likely to change following the government’s announcement it plans to legalize them. You will learn how and where you can legally use this relatively new and increasingly popular mode of transport, and what the risks are if you choose to do so.
Do not buy an e-scooter just yet. As part of a new Transport Bill, the government plans to allow the use of private e-scooters and other ‘low-speed zero-emission vehicles’ on public roads. The rules will remain unchanged until at least a year from now. Therefore, private e-scooters cannot be used on public roads.
It is still illegal to use an e-scooter on public roads, and the police will continue to enforce it that way, according to Eleanor Chappell, the head of micromobility for the Department for Transport. E-scooters are becoming increasingly popular among high street and online retailers – and yes, they are entirely legal to purchase.
Privately owned scooters, however, are only permitted to be used on private land with the permission of the landowner. Currently, private owned e-scooters cannot be used on pavements, cycle paths, or roads.
The current UK law classifies e-scooters as ‘powered transporters’, meaning they are treated like motor vehicles, so they cannot be used on pavements or cycle paths. In order to be used on a public road, they would have to meet the same requirements as cars and motorbikes, which currently is not technically or financially feasible.
It’s not necessary. It has yet to outline specific regulations for the e-scooter category of the ‘low-speed zero-emission vehicle’ category, but has stated that “safety will always come first.” A proposed set of rules will go out for consultation after the government publishes it, and then parliament must approve them. It will only be clear what the rules are once they are enacted.
They are likely to be based on rental trial scheme rules for e-scooters (see below), and include a speed limit (around 15mph), a minimum wheel size to combat potholes, and rules requiring e-scooters to have brakes, daytime running lights, indicators and possibly acoustic warnings. Even though many private e-scooters are currently on sale have some of those features, not all of them would be road-legal when the new laws take effect.
The government might also introduce a registration or licensing scheme for e-scooters, and it’s unclear if existing private e-scooters would qualify. Machines that are part of government-approved and council-sanctioned rental trials can be used.
They were originally intended to run for a limited period to help the government gather data on e-scooter use, but have been extended until November 2022. In light of the government’s plans to legalize e-scooters, expect those schemes to continue beyond then – and possibly expand further. Currently, there are rental trials in 31 regions across England, as well as in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Lime, Bird, Superpedestrian, Tier, Voi, and Neuron are some of the companies that operate them.
There are a number of restrictions and rules surrounding the use of e-scooters on public land. In order to hire one, you must be over the age of 18. It is also necessary to have a valid driving license with a category Q entitlement. Remember that a full or provisional UK licence for categories AM, A or B includes category Q entitlement.
You can only use the e-scooter within the trial’s boundaries if you rent one. You should also read the small print since further restrictions may apply depending on your location. In some areas, scooters are limited to 12.5mph, and they can be reduced to as low as 8mph in some areas. New riders are required to obey lower speed limits since 1 April 2022.
E-scooters are often controlled by tracking, so the machine will automatically limit its top speed, but you should also know the rules yourself.
Insurance is also required. This is currently provided as a standard feature by e-scooter rental operators. As with a license plate, operators are also required to display a label with a unique identification number. Trial e-scooters can be used on the road, although they cannot be used on faster roads, dual carriageways, and motorways. On the pavement, you may not use an e-scooter.
It is not allowed to carry a passenger on an e-scooter.
Helmet wear is not mandatory, but it is strongly recommended, and operators must provide incentives. Additionally, most rental schemes require you to park machines in designated areas, as well as operating hours. Rental schemes are required to offer parking incentives and penalties since April 1, 2022.
A 500W motor can reach a top speed of 15.5mph, has two independent braking systems, and cannot weigh more than 55kg. In addition to front and rear lights (direction indicators are optional), reflectors and a stand are required for the machine. Hand controls must be available on the rental e-scooters to control the machine’s speed, and the handlebars must be mechanically connected to the front wheels.