/ 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?

21/06/2021: Testing electric scooters

Would you buy an electric scooter, even though they're currently not legal to use in public spaces?
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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.

Should e-scooters be legal to use?
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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? 

Mad Max says:
21 January 2022

Well, I do think this. An ill considered report by Which.

As a youngster keen on motorcycles back in the early seventies you could not push a broken down old machine with half an engine that was never going to work again from point of purchase to your home. If the the police spotted you and they were everywhere, they would come round to see your parents about a juvenile being in control of a motor vehicle. One step from losing your license before you were older enough to drive.

Now I look at these – mostly youngsters and think I would have loved one in my youth.

But, people will get hurt though, no middle ground on that so all wrong to me. I often see a man on an electric scrambler bike which is very fast and up and down pavements on it’s journey. A serious accident waiting to happen yet again. Insurance and number plates might be the way I suppose.

Probably too difficult to police realistically.

Adam says:
7 February 2022

I’ve decided to use one for the school run. Having colitis, plantar fasciitis and gout, it is used for mobility purposes. If they’re illegal l, then councils shouldn’t be allowed to make money by renting them out. The other thing is that, if and when an officer pulls you over, he or she will mention insurance and I’m pretty sure that my 8m public liability insurance would cover any costs.

Does public liability insurance cover you if you are knowingly acting illegally?

The rented e-scooters are part of official trials in some parts of the country and these ones are not illegal.

It’s about time that the government made a decision about the future of e-scooters but in the meantime it’s irresponsible to break the law even if we wish to.

If you are using your own e-scooter for the school run then you are acting illegally and I would expect an insurance company would decline a claim, but best to ask them. Otherwise you leave yourself personally open to a huge claim for damages if you cause harm to someone .

Here's Johnny says:
16 February 2022

They could be legalised, possibly in the same category as mopeds with the same requirements for registration & insurance and used on the road only wiuth the user wearing a helmet and displaying an ‘L’ plate if appropriate. That way privately owned ones could also be used. The current so called trials are just money making scams rushed in on the pretence of being ‘Green’. Let’s have some proper regulation and get these things off the pavements and walk ways and I suspect they will naturally fade away when they have to compete with mopeds, electric bikes etc.

I don’t understand what compulsory registration and insurance would do to make e-scooters safer on the roads. Unlike cars and lorries, scooters can’t cause much damage to other vehicles or road users and the costs of a registration system would be entirely unjustified. In the event of a collision it will not be difficult to apprehend and identify the rider; they would probably be sprawled out on the road and not going anywhere. I don’t see why people want to impose more onerous regulations on e-scooters than on bicycles.

Personally I am not in favour of legalising e-scooters being ridden on the roads following the trials but the results of the experiment might indicate that concerns have been exaggerated and that riders will be no less responsible and competent than other road users.

Restrictions need to be based on purpose, not principle. E-bikes, push bikes, Sinclair C5 seem to have created no significant problems by not having insurance, road fund licence nor registration plates, and that has been the case with bikes for decades. Why should an e-scooter be treated differently?

I am not sure of the value of e-scooters but I suspect getting round a city and town relatively quickly, in good weather, on a single person vehicle rather than occupying a taxi for example, is environmentally good.

The Boris bike scheme seems to have been a success (at least in 2020) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-53577750 with over 93 million hiring up until that June. The demand for such transport is clearly there, and e-scooters, public or private, could be a good alternative, particularly if they can be taken into the place of work.

J Evans says:
11 March 2022

As a pedestrian I feel more and more like an endangered species. We have lost large parts of the pavements in residential streets to officially sanctioned parking – and some drivers abuse that, parking well beyond the marked bays and sometimes using the area from the drop kerb to their property as part of their driveway and parking across that. Cyclists routinely use the pavements instead of the road. I’ve had to take evasive action from mobility scooters [perhaps ridden by people who’ve never before driven any form of powered transport] and now we have electric scooters. So, no – they shouldn’t be on the pavement [and nor should any vehicle which travels at speed] but nor should they be on the road unless the driver/rider has had some instruction in safe riding, and pays road tax and insurance. In cycle lanes where provided, maybe.

Mark Pickin says:
27 April 2022

As an orthopaedic surgeon I see them as inherently and incurably dangerous. They have small wheels and are simply not stable.. throw in a stone or pothole and you are off and into the traffic. Plus I have already been knocked down by one passing me silently on a pavement.