I know the Government has recognised the potential of electric scooters for some time. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and as part of the most ambitious regulatory review of transport laws in a generation, the Department for Transport (DfT) had begun looking into the true benefits and costs of electric scooters. Then, as social distancing on public transport became a necessity, ministers accelerated and expanded planned trials of rental electric scooters in select areas of the country.
Trials involve electric scooter companies partnering with local authorities to provide electric scooters for hire. People over 16 years of age with a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence can participate in the trials and access and pay for electric scooter use through an app, with prices usually determined by the length or duration of the journey. Throughout the trials, electric scooters are prohibited on pavements and are limited to 15.5 mph, although this may be lower in some areas.
There is a full list of Government guidelines here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/e-scooter-trials-guidance-for-users
The trials will provide evidence on the true impact of electric scooters, for example: how safe they are; how they are used; whether potential benefits can be realised; and on how to manage potential downsides. It is important to note that, in the 32 e-scooter trials across the country, only selected rental electric scooters are being allowed to participate so that robust and meaningful data can be gathered, and a full set of findings can be included.
The original deadline for the end of the trials was 30 November 2021 but this was extended until 30 November 2022 to take into account the slower start to trials as a result of the pandemic. This has again been extended until May 2024 in order to better understand the benefits of properly regulated, safety-tested e-scooters and their impact on public space. A full set of findings will be included in the final report.
It remains the case that privately owned electric scooters are illegal to use on roads, pavements and cycle lanes, and those considering buying these devices should be aware of this. Greater use of electric scooters could potentially bring enormous value to our national public transport framework. However, I understand that safety remains a concern for many, and data from the trials will need to be carefully scrutinised before any decision is made on whether they should be legalised.
You may be aware that is illegal for e-scooters to be used on public roads other than as part of the Government approved e-scooter trials. I understand that police in local areas across the country have a range of sanctions at their disposal to address illegal e-scooter use, including on the spot fines and placing points on any licence held by the user.
Regarding e-scooters and associated criminality, Ministers and officials have been in regular contact with senior police officers through the NPCC as well as the Home Office in order to understand any concerns and issues.
Privately owned e-scooters fall within the category of ‘powered transporters’ which is a term that describes a variety of new and emerging personal transport devices which are powered by a motor. Given how powered transporters are motorised and designed, they fall within this legal definition of a motor vehicle. For these vehicles to be used they must meet several requirements including MOT checks; insurance; conformity with technical standards; payment of vehicle tax, licensing, and registration; driver testing and licensing; and the use of relevant safety equipment. Therefore the legal requirements that apply to motor vehicles also apply to e-scooters.
For more information about the requirements and regulations for e-scooters, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/powered-transporters/information-sheet-guidance-on-powered-transporters
The Government intends to create a Low-speed Zero Emission Vehicle (LZEV) category that is distinct from the cycle and motor vehicle categories. The first beneficiaries of this new system will be e-scooters. No final decisions about e-scooter regulations have been made and the Department for Transport will consult publicly before any new arrangements come into force.
Currently, it is illegal to ride a privately owned e-scooter on public land, but I believe the Government is currently considering how to design future regulations under a future Transport Bill to help make e-scooters safer and support innovation. The Bill intends to create a low speed, zero emissions vehicle category independent from the cycle and motor categories.
I can assure you that the Government’s top priority is safety and current trials are helping the Government better understand the benefits of properly regulated, safety-tested e-scooters and their impact on public space. The Bill will also propose new powers for local transport authorities to shape and manage rental operations, for pedal cycles, e-cycles, and e-scooters. The intention is to create a safer, clearer, and more adaptable framework for micro-mobility in the long term. The Government will consult on any new regulations before they are introduced.
I am encouraged too that the Department for Transport is also developing technical standards for the construction of e-scooters in order to improve their safety. Careful consideration of regulations on issues such as maximum speed, braking systems and lights will be made alongside taking knowledge gained from e-scooter trials. Indeed, increased regulation under the Transport Bill should serve to improve safety standards as currently there are no standard for private e-scooters on vital areas such as top speed and acceleration. The Government believes these new proposals should keep the UK at the forefront of transport innovation, helping deliver reforms to decarbonise transport, transform travel and better connect communities.
Please be assured that I will continue to monitor this issue closely.