/ 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? 

Matt says:
9 March 2020

The law is utterly stupid and ignores the most vulnerable in society. How about that. Does that satisfy as an answer to the question why are people ignoring the law. For those who are in more rural locations where there are no buses available when people might need them the most, where taxis charge an arm and a leg for travelling a few short miles. People can judge me they want to but without my scooter I would starve. We’ve already lost out local store where we live. We cannot physically get food without a car. If you have a car it’s fine but I personally don’t have a car. I bought my electric scooter during a sale and it’s been an absolute godsend. I travel at around 12mph. That’s it. A slow and steady speed so I can get to a supermarket and get food which would take hours to walk there. I always where a helmet and if there are people I always say sorry and get off and walk. It’s all about commonsense. If people don’t like something then they don’t like something. I’m not a big fan of cars but I accept them polluting the air and being loud don’t I. We all share this world and we just have to get on with it.

Matt…you seem to be a very responsible rider…unlike some. However, are you aware that privately owned scooters are illegal on public roads (and all e-scooters are illegal on pavements)? Just for info…..most supermarkets offer a system where they will deliver to your door…hope that helps.

It seems that a trial of e-scooters will soon be happening in selected areas, but you will have to hire one: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48106617

Hopefully coronavirus will soon be a memory but if not, an e-scooter seems a more attractive alternative to public transport.

Mr Airey says:
19 June 2020

Electric scooters are made to last for many years if properly maintained. They take up less space than a road bike and can be folded down to a compact size and easily stored at work. Electric cars are better for the environment but do not solve the problem of congestion on busy roads and parking can be a problem. New innovations which help reduce congestion and pollution should be made welcome and provided for. The only problem cities have with e scooters are mainly due to the proliferation of hire/share scooters which are left all over the pavements and not privately owned scooters. So let’s get some rules set up to govern them, that’s not rocket science and move with the times.

Many years ago I used to ride a motorcycle and had various parts stolen and eventually the whole bike. It was in the centre of town. If electric scooters can be folded and stored, that would enable them to be stored safely when working, if employers are helpful.

Mr Airey….it seems to be misuse, anti-social behaviour and flouting of traffic laws by e-scooter riders that is causing problems. Already, early trials in some towns have been abandoned because of this. As usual, the selfish, ignorant minority ruining things for everyone else. The police need to clamp down hard on offenders before the trial schemes are abandoned altogether by local councils.

Wavechange….very helpful, but it seems to be irresponsible riders who treat the scooters as toys that are the problem. I’ve definitely not got a down on youth but I must say that based upon personal observation, all the offences I’ve seen were committed by youths, especially in student areas. I’m not bigoted…just telling it as I’ve observed it. Hope things improve.

Codemonkey says:
10 July 2020

I have an e scooter to avoid using public transport during covid, I also wear a helmet and even I was cautioned by police for just having it(turned off) while I was walking with a friend. Law needs to get with the times to stop police abusing it.

From the BBC website:

Middlesbrough e-scooters: Town is first place for trial
Middlesbrough has become the first place in the country to trial e-scooters in a bid to ease pressure on public transport amid the coronavirus crisis.
Fifty rentable electric scooters are available from around the town and can be hired by anyone over the age of 18 with a full or provisional driving licence.
The vehicles, which are banned on pavements, are limited to 11.5mph and cost £2 to hire for 20 minutes.
The pilot, which will run for a year, will be rolled out across all five boroughs of the Tees Valley later this month.
13 Jul 2020

The trial in Middlesbrough will only permit the use of the hire scooters being provided for rent.

I can understand Codemonkey’s plea for lifting the prohibition on using e-scooters but there are valid concerns about the safety of riders, pedestrians and other road users. Having a trial is a good idea to see how any risks can be mitigated. Scooter riders are very vulnerable in busy traffic and have an even smaller visibility than a cyclist. There is also a strong temptation to ride them on the footway which would create a further hazard for pedestrians, especially children, the elderly and disabled people.

It is interesting that the government has set the age limit for using e-scooters at 18 whereas you can get a provisional licence to drive a car on reaching 17 years of age [although you have to have a supervisor with you until you have passed the driving test]. This is presumably to ensure that e-scooter riders have acquired some experience of moving in traffic before going on the public highway.

The other inhibiting feature is the cost of using one. £2 for 20 minutes [to go less than 4 miles] might not even get you to the next drop-off point or to return to the start depending on the route selected.

The prevalence of rain is another turn-off; every passing lorry will give you a speed-wash.

I welcome trials so that we can learn about problems and change the rules if necessary before e-scooters are permitted across the country. It is a pity that this had not been done earlier because e-scooters could have avoided the risk of travelling by public transport in the current pandemic.

I don’t remember having trials of the C5 or e bikes.

I see e scooters as ideal for some for short journeys. Getting to your local public transport stop for example and completing your journey from where the service delivers you. They seem portable enough to take with you on the bus or tube. I would not see them as a substitute for using public transport on other than short journeys.

When you can ride a moped at 16 why is a slower e scooter treated differently?

This is completely weird. I have an e-bike that I can get upto speeds of around 20mph downhill (the battery cuts out at 15mph as the law dictates) yet I can ride this on a cycle path. The only justification for not being able to ride these on a cycle path is because they can MAINTAIN a speed of 11mph? I would be interested to know the reasoning. I can understand why pedestrians may be concerned about having a lot of traffic at these speeds on shared cycle paths, but many cyclists who are younger and fitter than me could maintain speeds of 10mph without a battery to assist so it seems very odd not to permit these scooters on dedicated (ie not shared with pedestrians) cycle paths – can anyone explain the reasoning?

The reasoning is that the bike is pedal asist. If you don’t pedal it doesn’t move. The bikes that move without peddling are just as illegal as the scooters. With regards to going down hill at speed. It is illegal to let a lorry overspeed past its speed limit (which is 56mph) this may be the same for ebikes but I doubt it.

Because the law is an ass.

I could jump in a Sinclair C5 or an electric bicycle with:

1) No helmet
2) No driving licence
3) No insurance
4) No MOT
5) No number plate
6) No lights or indicators.

But to ride a folding e-scooter capable of 15mph I need all of the above or I face 6 points and a £300 fine.

It’s totally bonkers.

wavechange….shortly after your post, Middlesbrough scaled back the trial due to misuse by e-scooter riders (riding on pavements, even in indoor shopping centres, flouting traffic regulations etc.). Trials in Hartlepool were abandoned altogether and in Coventry they paused their trial after only 5 days…all due to anti-social behaviour etc. by irresponsible riders. I can see e-scooters becoming a controversial issue with the general public.

I have only seen one e-scooter in use and since I don’t live in one of the trial areas it must have been illegal, even though it was being ridden responsibly. I can see the benefits and the risks, and ignoring the law is not going to help the case of those who are keen for privately owned ones to be made legal.

You could stick a flag on a pole on an e-scooter to make it more visible but you should be as visible as on a bike since you stand when scooting along.

This mode of transport seems to have more legs than the ill-fated C5 where, as on some low trikes,, you were very vulnerable and out of view. And you can takes the scooter under your arm to store it away when you get to work, for example.

I suppose renting a scooter ensures only those with a licence and helmet will use them and, presumably, 3rd party insurance is provided. To ensure that is complied with if you owned one would requires registration and licence plates. But you can own and ride an electric bicycle without such restrictions. Many “ordinary” cyclists are a hazard to others, and vulnerable to others, and are not regulated.

On balance it seems perverse to place these restrictions on an e-scooter.

malcolm r…you need at least a provisional driving licence to rent an e-scooter. Helmets are normally provided free by the hirer and it is the hirers responsibility to ensure that there is appropriate insurance in place. Insurance cost is included in the hire charge.
As regards cyclists, I think that this is likely to become the subject of contentious debate with regard to insurance, the lack of any requirement to demonstrate proficiency on the roads and the tendency of the police to ignore cycling misdemeanours (unless they cause an accident). Then there is the increasing cost of providing more safe cycle lanes and the consequences of trying to force fit them into an infrastructure which for the most part, was never built to accommodate them. Lots of room for debate and disagreement I fear, not least from the vociferous cycle lobby.

It looks as if it is now legal to ride e-scooters in central London: https://www.mylondon.news/news/zone-1-news/big-change-thats-been-made-18597839

If this article is correct, they can be ridden on pavements. 🙁

Only rented e scooters as a trial, like some other cities. It is proposed they should be allowed to use cycle lanes by pressure groups.

I would be surprised if they were allowed to use “conventional” pavements but maybe they could be used in pedestrianised areas on designated tracks?

What is appropriate for a city centre is likely to be different for a semi-rural area, so clear signs will be needed.

When I lived on the outskirts of a city I was doubtful about pedestrians and cyclists sharing a path but in the more rural area where I now live I am happy to share, irrespective of whether I am on foot or on a bike.

wavelength…I can’t comment on London, but it’s definitely illegal to ride an e-scooter on pavements elsewhere…quite rightly, in my opinion, as it’s simply too dangerous (especially for the elderly and disabled).

malcolm r….Not certain but I believe that e-scooters can only use cycle lanes if the local council have amended their Traffic Regulations (by-laws) to permit this.

Delboy – Having suffered a broken collarbone after being hit by a bicycle when I was at school I do have my reservations about e-scooters, and take your point about the elderly and disabled. I certainly don’t want to see e-scooters on standard pavements but there may be a case for allowing them on combined pavements/cycle paths where pedestrians and cyclists are separated.

Hi,I’ve just read your article regarding the future of escooters and would like to add another benefit to legalizing escooters.
I am 64 years old and I was a keen cyclist up until 10 years ago when my knees and knock forced me to stop. I struggle with stairs,can’t pedal at all but not quite ready for replacements.
I live with my wife and daughter who are both disabled and three grandchildren 4,6 and 11. Obviously the two older kids are pretty rapid when I take them on country trails I.e converted railway lines.Too young to be unaccompanied too fast to keep up with. Unless 15st. grandad uses an escooter capable of keeping up with them for 10/15 miles on uneven ground up and down hills with no chance of running out of battery. That means a more powerful scooter than you are suggesting. It is also the difference between introducing three kids to serious cycling and prime time with grandad or not.
Yesterday I took my 6 year old granddaughter for a 17 mile bike ride she was amazing and we got lots of smiles and compliments on how gorgeous she was and how amazing my scooter was. BUT I was constantly aware that despite how sensible I was I was still breaking the law with severe consequences if caught and the fact I wasn’t insured should I be involved in an incident.
I agree with all of the concerns regarding the legalization of escooters but there must be many people like me and my grandchildren who will find great benefits in being able to play together and the ability to introduce kids to cycling,or siblings who have a disability that prevents them from peddling but still want to have the same thrills that cycling offers.
Perhaps one of the ways forward would be to have to hold a driving license with appropriate penalties along with an appropriate sub section to allow younger people to be licensed if they have an appropriate reason to need an escooter rather than pedal power.
Sent from my iPad

Rich says:
5 August 2020

There will always be the idiot who can’t drive a car properly, that one motorcyclist who rides on the road like they’re on a race track – heck even kids on cycles leaping off pavements are a pain in the ass!

So what is the answer? Ban idiots from electric cycles? Ban anyone stupid from ever getting near anything EVER?

My personal opinion is electric scooters for adults solve a great deal of pollution problems in cities, they’re less difficult to carry into work or a shop as they fold up – considerably less hassle than taxis and buses for short distances: infact there appears to be a lot more positive reasons to own one than negatives.

Almost everywhere I go now adults and kids are zooming around on these things: I’m still astounded that in a country where police are weighed down by crime, traffic violations and social distancing violations (back to idiots again) that there are people out there who still whine and complain that a few little electric scooters are helping kids get to school and people get to work.

You have to wonder what else is on their grumble list: the volume of the next door neighbours mower on a Sunday I’d imagine.

As far as I’m concerned banning electric scooters won’t stop people using them; if electric bikes aren’t illegal then electric scooters shouldn’t be either.

The grumble is the idiots who ride e-scooters at speed on the pavements and expect you – the pedestrian – to get out of the way when you are carrying heavy shopping. Usually they are young – teens and 20s – and they seem selfish and unconcerned that they could cause injury or worse.

I’ve just had to jump out of the way of two children on e-scooters who whizzed past me from behind, one of whom proceeded to stop and shout abuse at me for being in his way and for not walking in a straight line.

When informed that he was breaking the law using the thing, he insisted first that e-scooters are legal and then insisted that he had a licence and insurance to use it (he was about 14 and there is no trial taking place in this town, so …)

The police saying that they ignore it if people are wearing a helmet and being careful is nonsense.
I’ve not seen one person yet wearing a helmet or ‘being careful’ as they whizz past people from behind on narrow pavements. Police are just ignoring it – full stop. Same as they ignore cyclists on the pavements.

Confiscate the things from anyone not wearing a helmet or being careful. Fine them. Get some laws for using them legally and enforce them. FIne adults who give them to children.
Class them as some kind of vehicle and let them use cycle paths – fine, but get the things off the pavement.

The current free-for-all will result in more deaths.

More deaths?

There have been ZERO pedestrian deaths or serious injuries caused by e-scooters. Conversely, motorised vehicles have killed 640 people on footpaths since 2007.

Just a thought.

I am not convinced that, in essence, e-scooters are any more of a hazard or a nuisance than push scooters, skateboards, roller skates or children’s bicycles. They can all be ridden badly, can all take pedestrians by surprise, and can all knock people over and cause injuries. Responsible parental instruction and supervision is necessary in the case of children using such conveyances, but when they are used by teenagers and young adults there is no such restraint. It just comes down to society’s behavioural norms and tolerances which have progressively lost their influence.

It is far safer for small and low-speed wheeled machines to be ridden on the pavement than on the carriageway amongst high-powered and fast-moving traffic, and with that acceptance should come the responsibility to ride safely, and to look out for and mind other people even if they are perceived to be in the way.

Chris says:
30 August 2020

This is a no-brainer, just make scooters illegal if their top speed is over 15mph (a reasonable speed to have safe stopping distance), make all scooters have to have a WORKING horn, and seize the scooters of anyone of any age who isn’t wearing a helmet. It doesn’t require “trials”.

Moreover if you look in the accounts, you will find the companies running these trials (and making fortunes no doubt) have bribed the gov’t with cash for the privileged of being in the “trials”.

You get dangerous drivers/riders on any kind of transport, how many people are killed through dangerous driving every year? A lot more than the one thats so far been killed by being on a scooter (and as a TV personality, I bet she was speeding to get to a job on time).

Paul Benson says:
11 September 2020

I see lots of adverts from solicitors offering injury claim services to e-scooter riders if they have been hurt by pedestrians, cars or cyclists. My advice is, even if you just own a cycle get legal insurance in case some idiot walks out in front of you or collides with you on an e-scooter. If you join the British Cycling Association they give you free insurance. Home insurers often includes legal protection policies.

I just want to make everyone the the gov have a petition to make e scooters legal in the UK right now and it ends on the 17th Sept so there is only a few days left for you to sign it. Its to make them legal to help with the carbon footprint on the planet
Please go here now and sign it before its to late.
It needs 10,000 signatures for the just to even look at it and its no where near that

[Moderator: we’ve converted this from all caps into normal sentence case. Please don’t type in all caps unless you’re intending to shout.]

TenCoats says:
22 September 2020

So we just ignore the 18st hulk doing 30+ on the footpath eh?
Pavement, cycle lanes, red lights green lights, most of them dont give a hoot about even basic safety. No lights at any point and certainly no horn.
Its scary watching them careering down the pavement, across a lit pedestrian crossing and then on down the centre of a main road as they wish. Into oncoming traffic doesnt seem to matter either. You see them whizz inside a car parked at the red lights and they are just straight through, pedestrians ? Dont make me laugh!

As a mature student of 40+ year, I have recently purchased an e scooter to commute into uni. The area Where I live is at present running a hire scheme for the use of e scooter. I personally find the laws on environmentally friendly forms of transport out dated with the need to further advance our progress to net zero being hampered by them. If the powers that be could be more open minded with regards to this form of transport, it would allow for a safer e scooter environment with regulated use and need for liability insurance for instances such as in this article.

Sandra Bayliss-Hare says:
27 September 2020

There are several children in the street where I live who are riding their e-scooters on the pavement with little or no regard for anyone else around them. They all appear to be over 10 and, therefore, are criminally responsible, but they either are not aware of the law or are ignoring it. They are too young to have licences and are clearly not old enough to be in total control of their scooters. Their parents, too, must be unaware of, or disregarding, the law, as they are allowing the children to ride the scooters on public land. We have no police patrols in our area (not even CSPOs) so, unless someone reports them (and there is some kind of response to the report), they will carry on doing it until someone is seriously injured.

You must be excellent fun at parties…

Hi, I’m looking at buying our daughter an electric Scooter for getting around to save us driving her everywhere – the roads are congested as it is and surely it would be better to reduce the amount of traffic polluting our streets which we all breath.
it would save on fuel, congestion and would surely be better for the environment, the government always seem to want to make money out of everything we do in one way or another
cars definitely are not the answer unless electric cars are heavily subsidised in order to bring the cost down, at the moment they are still quite expensive, i mean where is all the congestion money going
its certainly not spent on cleaning up the air, its just another tax
London would be so much cleaner if we were allowed to use e scooters, they should be allowed on bike lanes and cycle paths atleast.

with any vehicle you have to use them sensibly, there are many who cant be sensible on a push bike, going through red lights etc, E scooters are certainly no worse.

John says:
8 October 2020

I have been hit once by an e scooter on a pavement resulting in a knee injury requiring treatment and a lack of mobility for a while, in addition I have had over 10 near misses some of which were e scooters going at high speed on pavements with total disregard for pedestrians. I will be very surprised if the injury tally doesn’t increase along with some fatalities.
If e scooters are to be legalised they must have licence plates, insurance and lights, helmets should be recommended and they must be speed limited, in addition any accidents caused by e scooters on pavements must result in severe punishments and fines, as they are a danger to all pedestrians especially the elderly and disabled.

Gammerz says:
16 October 2020

How do we spot the difference between a legally hired scooter and an illegal privately owned one?