Electrical scooters within the UK: All the pieces you should know

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has finally released the details of how the UK will be trialing e-scooters. This will allow e-scooters to be used under certain conditions for the next 12 months. The trials officially started from Saturday 4 July 2020 in the UK, but it’s down to individual councils to make that happen.

But what does this mean for the state of electric scooters in the UK? Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the conditions of the e-scooter trials?

There will be a lot of terms and conditions associated with the electric scooter trials in the UK. Firstly, the trials will only allow for rental scooters. The DfT says this is to stop a flood of low quality and dangerous electric scooters appearing on the roads, which is why privately-owned scooters will not be allowed under these trials. They are still bound by the conditions outlined below and enshrined in current law.

Next, the rider will have to adhere to a couple of conditions:

  • Electric scooters will only be allowed on roads or cycle paths and banned from pavements.
  • The rider must be over the age of 16.
  • The rider must have a full or provisional UK driving licence.
  • Scooters must be limited to 15.5mph.
  • Electric scooters will be banned on motorways.
  • You cannot ride under the influence of drink or drugs.

Wearing a helmet is not mandatory, although it is strongly recommended.

Rental companies will also have to adhere to conditions during the trials. As e-scooters will be classed as road vehicles, they will need to be insured by the provider. The maximum power permitted will be 500W and the maxiumum permitted weight will be 55kg.

The conditions also state that a scooter can only carry one person and that the power mechanism has to default to the off position when released.

As you’ll be riding on the open road, you will be covered by legislation that applies to vehicle usage on the roads. That means that if you don’t adhere to the restrictions, you could face a fine or get points on your license.

Beyond that, there are lots of things that local authorities will have to put into place for electric scooter trials to take place, but it’s expected that most will be in place between July and August 2020.

Who will be running e-scooter trials?

Now that the UK Government has outlined the details of the trial, we’re expecting to see a wide range of companies offering rental services around UK towns and cities. While it is still to be confirmed who will be offering which services where, we expect the likes of Voi, Spin, Bolt, Bird, Lime and Wind to all offer UK services. 

Many of these services have confirmed that they’re ready to put electric scooters onto the UK’s streets as soon as permitted. In most cases you’ll have to sign-up to the service via an app and then use that app to make your rental, getting charged through the app.

However, it will be down to indiviual councils to make arrangements with these organisations to run the trials. So far, the list of councils runing trials includes:

  • Tees Valley Combined Authority (Darlington Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council)

What stops you riding a private electric scooter in the UK?

The 1835 Highways Act restricts the use of Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEV) to private land in the UK – and this law remains in place making it illegal to ride a privately-owned electric scooter in public in the UK. If you bought one yourself, you can’t use it unless you’re on private land.

Electric scooters are classified as a carriage and the 165-year-old UK law bans carriages from public footways. It is deemed illegal for the following:

“If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon.”

You cannot ride in the road either as two-wheeled electric scooters are not classified as roadworthy by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the body that issues UK driving licenses and documentation for road-going vehicles.

If you do use a privately-owned scooter, you could face the following actions:

  • fines
  • points on your license
  • the scooter could be impounded.

Will they become legal eventually? 

Almost certainly. Electric scooters have been on the UK Government’s radar for some time. The opening up of a trial of rental schemes will pave the way for what follows. It will give the UK Government time to amend legislation as well as examine the real-world impact of allowing scooters in cities and towns. Combined with greater investment in cycling networks, it’s likely seen as a strategy for getting more people moving. 

Many of the conditions that were applied to electric pedal bikes are being applied to e-scooters too. Exactly when there might be a relaxing to allow for privately-owned electric scooters on the UK’s roads remains to be seen, but we suspect that it won’t be until the full trial period for rentals has been completed.

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