E-scooters are an increasingly popular mode of transportation, but their use is restricted in the UK – here’s what you need to know
Over the past few years you might have noticed scooters whizzing along pavements and roads at surprising speeds. That’s because, like everything in our modern world, the humble scooter has now been overtaken by a high-tech variation: the electric scooter, or e-scooter. The e-scooter is a relatively new kind of personal transportation vehicle that looks like a scooter, but is motorised and capable of average speeds of 20km/h, while also sporting a larger frame and thicker wheels.
Seeing the impressive speeds they’re capable of, you might have thought about buying one for personal use. However, before you get to comparing tech specs and prices, the first thing you’ll have to confront is the issue of legality. Like many new technologies, e-scooters have yet to find a defined place in UK law and currently exist in something of a grey area.
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Is it legal to own an e-scooter?
Currently, it is legal to buy and own an e-scooter for personal use. However, under UK law, e-scooters, alongside hoverboards and electric unicycles, are considered “powered transporters”. This classification means that it’s illegal to use them on pavements, cycle lanes or in pedestrianised areas, so you would only be able to use your new scooter on your own private property. Technically, an e-scooter could be used on public roads if you managed to register, tax and insure one like any other motor vehicle, but this isn’t currently possible. Moreover, improper use of an e-scooter could lead to a fine, penalty points on your licence and even having your scooter impounded.
But haven’t I seen people riding them around town?
In a bid to improve public transport options, and promote climate safe travel, various cities around the UK such as London, Newcastle and Manchester have introduced e-scooter rental trials.
To take advantage of this joint venture between local councils and e-scooter rental companies you’ll need to fulfil a few basic requirements, varying between regions, which could include: holding a full or provisional driving licence with category Q permissions, completing an online course and following safety and usage regulations.
Will e-scooters become legal in the future?
The nationwide rental trials have been extended until November 2022. Following the collation and analysis of data gathered over the period of the trials, new legislation is expected to be brought forward very soon.
As of May 2022, discussions around e-scooter legiality seem to be moving forward, with the government saying that e-scooter legislation is a priority for this year. A government spokeswoman putt foward this statement: “While riding a privately owned e-scooter on public land is currently illegal, we are considering how best to design future regulations and our Transport Bill will help us to take the steps we need to make e-scooters safer and support innovation.”
Though nothing is set in stone, it is expected that the use of personal e-scooters will be legalised, with the creation of their own vehicle class in UK law. This new legislation will likely include speed and weight caps, modification restrictions and specifications for where you can safely use e-scooters.