Electric scooters (or e-scooters for short) have been street legal in the US for some time. But for those of us wanting to ride an e-scooter here in the UK, it’s been a different story—we’ve been limited to riding on private land only…that is, until now!
The Department for Transport (DfT) has just announced that it will be legal to ride an e-scooter on UK roads from this Saturday (4th July 2020). The adjustment to the law has been made in a bid to ease the pressure on public transport and thus reduce the spread of coronavirus.
However, there’s a catch; privately owned e-scooters will remain illegal on UK roads. The only electric scooters that will be deemed street legal are those operated by a rental company.
The DfT said in a statement that this is “to avoid a flood of poor-quality scooters onto the streets.”
All electric scooters will continue to be banned on pavements and need to be limited to 15.5 mph. It’s also recommended that riders wear a helmet.
Electric scooter sharing schemes
Under the new rules set out by the DfT, local authorities and devolved administrations in England, Scotland and Wales can allow or run e-scooter sharing schemes in their areas as part of 12-month trials.
Riders must be aged 16 or over and will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence to use a rental e-scooter.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said the trials would allow the government to test whether e-scooters could offer “clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing.”
Some 50 local authorities have expressed an interest to the government in having electric scooter trials. And, it’s hoped the first rentable e-scooters could be up and running in Middlesbrough from early next week.
Risk to vulnerable pedestrians
Not everybody is welcoming the news though. Campaigners have warned that e-scooters could become trip hazards and pose a risk to vulnerable pedestrians.
Disability awareness campaigner Deborah Farley-Persaud, who is registered as blind and uses a white cane, told the BBC she fears rental e-scooters could obstruct the pavement, creating “an enormous trip hazard”, having previously encountered issues with dockless e-bike schemes in London.
Previous scooter-sharing schemes have also faced criticism over dumped scooters, which have been a problem in Paris. So local authorities will need to establish rules to avoid vehicles being abandoned on pavements.
Additionally, there are also fears the trials will be taken as a “green light for individuals to purchase and use their own e-scooters on public roads and elsewhere,” according to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS).
Environmentally friendly transport
On the other hand, supporters of the move say that e-scooters are better for the environment than alternatives, and would help people to move around cities as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Swedish firm Voi is among those hoping to bring them to the UK. It says the vehicles offer a good alternative to public transport as they are ridden out in the open air, where there is less risk of coronavirus transmission.
“Voi was started with a mission to provide a way of transport that was more convenient and better for our environment than cars,” said Voi chief executive, Fredrik Hjelm. “We have demonstrated across Europe that we can help replace short car journeys of one to three miles with e-scooter trips.”
What’s you take on this news? Do you think privately owned e-scooters should be made street legal in the UK as well? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured image: Voi/Facebook