And it’s looking at on-demand buses and medical drones too
Despite the daily sightings of people using e-scooters on pavements across the UK, it’s not and has never been legal. While electric scooters have been legalised in countries around the world – hence the big number of hire points in European cities – the UK has never formally allowed them except on private land.
The laws – which can see people fined £300 in addition to six points on the driving licence – clearly aren’t enforced, which is probably why the government is today opening a consultation on whether and how to make e-scooters legal. Questions like ‘should people need helmets’, ‘should they have insurance’ and ‘should they need a license’ are expected to feature, and it’s possible certain manufacturer requirements will be introduced as well. Think enforced top speeds and built-in brake lights, reflectors and suspension.
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“Our groundbreaking Future of Transport programme marks the biggest review of transport laws in a generation and will pave the way for exciting new transport technology to be tested, cementing the UK’s position as a world-leading innovator,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in a statement introducing the review.
You may think legalising something that is already legal around the world is overegging the UK position as “world-leading innovator,” but it’s actually only one aspect of the review. The government will also be looking at bringing the Uber-style on-demand model to buses, and considering the use of drones for the delivery of medical supplies.
The trials will be introduced in what the government calls “Future Transport Zones” which will be designated in four areas around the UK. One is around the south coast that covers an area stretching from Winchester to the Isle of Wight, taking in Portsmouth and Southampton along the way. Another covers the distance between Derby and Nottingham, and a third takes in the West Midlands. The final zone is the West of England Combined Authority, which covers areas across Bath, Bristol, the Northern Arc and Bristol Airport.
Before you hop on an e-scooter and set off to your nearest Future Transport Zone, you should know that such trials can’t begin until existing legislation – which essentially treats e-scooters as cars, meaning they can’t ever be legal – is amended.
That likely won’t be until the end of the year, given the consultation is due to run until 22 May and we have certain other priorities with the coronavirus running riot. In the meantime, maybe consider which vehicle you’ll buy in a year’s time by having a read of our best electric scooters roundup.