/ Travel & Leisure

E-scooters: why are people ignoring the law?

Electric scooters are an increasingly common sight on city streets, but are they a good idea? And why are so many people ignoring the law around their use?

28/01/2020: Electric scooters could soon be legal

It looks as though electric scooters could soon be legal to use on Britain’s roads.

According to The Times, the government is planning to launch a consultation as soon as next month on how to regulate e-scooters.

As we discuss below, some have concerns about the safety and sustainability of e-scooters, so it’s good to see the government thinking about how to make sure e-scooters, which are seemingly here to stay, can be used as safely as possible.

The consultation, which transport minister George Freeman said would start “in due course”, is thought to be considering treating them like bicycles and allowing them on roads and cycle lanes, and to considering limiting their speed to 15.5mph.

Does this move change your mind about e-scooters? Let us know in the comments.

19/08/2019: Why are people ignoring the law?

There I was, walking along the pavement to my local station when suddenly I was broadsided by something moving at speed.

As I looked to see what had hit me, a woman in front of me staggered and nearly lost her balance as she was clipped by the same person on an electric scooter who ignored both of our shouts of rage as she sailed off along the pavement. 

Fortunately, neither of us were hurt, though we were both pretty annoyed. But other people have been injured, and even killed: YouTuber Emily Hartridge lost her life in July after a crash involving her e-scooter and a lorry in southwest London.

Just a few days later, a teenager suffered a serious head injury after an accident on an e-scooter.

If you’ve spent any time in a major city around the globe recently, you’ve probably seen people whizzing along on electric scooters, but they haven’t been welcome everywhere.

Are e-scooters legal in the UK?

Here in Britain, e-scooters are banned on both the roads and the pavements. This is because they’re classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), or ‘Powered Transporters‘.

So why are we seeing them? And are users being told about the legal position? 

Looking on websites of shops that sell e-scooters, most – but not all – do flag up that it’s illegal to ride them on the pavements and roads, although the warnings are sometimes placed at the bottom of the page and/or buried in text. 

Christian Payne told me via Twitter that when he bought his scooter, he was told very clearly what the legal position is:

He went on to make his own video that explained the law to others. So is the law being enforced?

A friend whose elderly father bought himself an e-scooter told me that he had chatted to several police officers while he was out and about on it and, not only did they not reprimand him for breaking the law, they told him that they didn’t have time for that sort of thing.

Are e-scooters sustainable?

There are also concerns about how environmentally-friendly they are. The ‘dockless’ rental schemes, where you can leave the scooter or bike anywhere you like rather than returning them to docking station, have sparked complaints as users carelessly leave them blocking pavements.

Meanwhile, the jury is out on their sustainability. While many argue that they’re much better than cars, others say that their short lifespan of just a few months and problems with how they’re disposed of undermine those advantages.

As you can probably tell, I’m not keen on them and won’t be buying one for myself any time soon, but it’s clear they are potentially useful for people with limited mobility. 

My view is that we need to get the infrastructure right so that we can use them safely and legally, and that we also need to make sure that they don’t develop faults or fall apart within a few months.

But what do you think? Are they an innovation we should embrace, or should they be banned? How could they be made safe and become a useful addition to our transport options? 


Putting the legalities aside for a moment, they are exactly what we need at the moment to ease congestion on roads and public transport. Zero-emission, low cost, low maintenance, convenient, practical, easy to store/commute with, great for those with limited fitness/mobility. This vitriol directed towards what is a simply a sustainable clean means of transport is laughable, you’d think people were riding around on nuclear warheads.

It is a completely irrational and disproportionate response to what is little more than an irritant, while the very real danger to life, limb, public health and the environment gets routinely ignored/excused/accepted.

It reminds me of a bunch of irate pensioners shaking their fists at skateboarders!

Despite the huge increase in popularity, there have been ZERO deaths or serious injuries to pedestrians caused by electric scooters. Yes, ZERO, none, zilch. Let’s compare that to the 28000 deaths and serious injuries PER YEAR caused by motorised vehicles. All this outrage about e-scooters on the pavement conveniently ignores the real danger of MOTORISED VEHICLES that have taken the lives of 640 people since 2007.

I’m very disappointed with the author for propagating these warped views, I would have expected more impartiality from a Which editor!

Peter says:
29 December 2020

You are incorrect – there have been injuries to pedestrians as unfortunately a proportion of users ride on pavements and come out of nowhere at speed, shooting diagonally across roads etc. When e-scooters come in legally they should have an ID number displayed prominently, compulsory third party insurance, and heavy fines for dangerous riding.

Typical Karen. What does environmentally friendly and leaving scooters on the pavement have in common? Nothing. If you even know how these rental systems work then you’d know you cannot leave the scooters “blocking the pavement” but would have to be locked up. Just like how rental bikes work. How many rental e bikes have you seen blocking roads, Karen?

I can’t find any comments from a Karen in this Conversation to whom Uchiha’s remarks might be addressed.

John, I could not either. I then assumed the name was being applied as urban slang.

Uchiha may mean Kate, the author, referring to the 5th para from the end.
I seen no reason why e-scooters limited to 15m/h should not be allowed on the road just as e-bikes are.
It seems perverse that they are only legal if rented.

Peter says:
19 November 2020

helloi am 74 years old live in south london as an ex soldier why can not walk my dog etc without being in fear of e, scooters driving where & whenever they like pavement road > this is not i spent 12 years serving for .please some one sort this out.