On 4 July 2020 it became legal to ride rental e-scooters being trialled on Britain’s roads. The change applies only to rentals with private scooters remaining illegal.
Under the new rules set out by the DfT, local authorities and devolved administrations in England, Scotland and Wales were able run e-scooter sharing schemes pilot schemes. Local authorities in Scotland and Wales declined to take part.. More than 50 trials have taken place across England. Originally scheduled to last 12 months, these can now be extended to November 2022.
Users must hold a provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence, and must be at least 16 years old. The speed limit of rental e-scooters is set at 15.5mph (25km/h) and the scooters are banned from being used on pavements.
Private e-scooters are unlike rental e-scooters in both their construction and use... 15-20mph is typical although some devices can exceed 50mph. There are no standards to be met for their safety or performance.
Under no circumstances should e-scooters or e-scooter parking take up pedestrian space.
Initially we were concerned at the speed with which the government was moving forward with e-scooter trials and the loose guidance given to local authorities. However, a much greater problem has emerged.
There are more than 750,000 illegal, privately owned e-scooters already being used on public roads. That can’t be undone. Government must now legislate for their construction and use – including enforcement against scooter use on pavements. Living Streets will work and campaign with partners on this issue.
Rental scheme operators have the design of their e-scooters approved by the Department for Transport. They know who is using their e-scooters, where and can use smart technology to prevent them mounting pavements. Rental e-scooter users are also insured. The trials will go some way to show how, well-managed, rental schemes could be part of the mix for everyday low carbon transport.
In contrast, a person on a privately owned e-scooter is using a more dangerous vehicle, is not insured, is not registered and (outside large urban areas) faces no consequences for illegal use on roads or pavements.
E-scooters are harder to handle than bicycles. They have smaller wheels, the footplates are closer to the ground and if you meet a pothole you are much more likely to come off than if you are cycling.
The poor state of our roads combined with high levels of traffic lead us to believe that we don't have the right infrastructure currently in place to support e-scooters. This could lead to people scooting on the pavement because they are scared to use the road.
RNIB and the Bicycle Association agree that the current cycling infrastructure is not up to the job, with cycling groups having additional concerns around the technical specification of e-scooters and penalty structure in particular.
Extra space for walking, cycling and scooting is required for the safe use of e-scooters.
Scooter parking (for rental schemes) is a must to stop people dumping them on the footway when they’re finished with them, as is placing scooter parking in the carriageway to avoid taking space away from people walking.
Dockless rental schemes cause obstructions when they are placed on the footway anddon't work for pedestrians.
The speed, acceleration and fact that e-scooters are very quiet are all going to cause alarm and potential danger to more vulnerable pedestrians, including children, those with mobility issues and those living with sight loss.
The implications when e-scooters are ridden in poor weather conditions, on busy roads, by inexperienced and potentially drunk users do not bear thinking about.
Watch Dr Rachel Lee, Policy and Research Manager at Living Streets, give evidence on e-scooters to the Transport Select Committee.