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E-scooter Legalisation - A Beginner's Guide to the Legal Issues

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E-scooters are an increasingly common sight on many of Britain’s streets, but the lawfulness of their use is not as straightforward as it may appear.

E-scooters are not illegal in the UK and you can buy, sell and own one perfectly legally. However, the legalities of their use and the potential penalties for improper use of an e-scooter are often overlooked by many people due to their appeal.

Effectively, the use of e-scooters on a road should be treated no different from the use of a car, motorcycle or any other motor vehicle, subject to express exceptions i.e. no legal requirement to wear a helmet.

While there are no official figures for how many e-scooters there are in the UK, they have grown in popularity following a series of pilot schemes run by the government. These schemes involve allowing approved companies to rent e-scooters for public use in more than 40 towns and cities across England.

E-scooter company Voi is taking part in 21 of the trials and says it recorded more than one million rides in just over six months, giving some idea of the popularity of the schemes.

Areas taking part in the e-scooter trials include Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Newcastle and Salford, as well as a number of London Boroughs such as Canary Wharf, the City of London, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond upon Thames and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The government are currently consulting on whether to change the law to make e-scooter use legal and is set to deliver its verdict in March 2022.

If you are planning to use an e-scooter or are already doing so, it is important to understand whether they are legal to use in your areas, the rules for doing so and the potential penalties for getting it wrong.

If you have been involved in a collision involving an e-scooter, have been charged with an e-scooter offence or are concerned about a potential offence, you should seek specialist legal advice now.

Are e-scooters legal in the UK?

E-scooters are perfectly legal to buy, sell and own in the UK. However, any personally owned e-scooters can only be used on private land (i.e. not roads or other public places) and with the permission of the landowner.

There is no specific law covering e-scooters – instead, they are classed as ‘powered transporters’, meaning they are covered by the same laws as any other motor vehicle. This means the rider must have a driving licence and insurance, and the e-scooter would need to be taxed, have an MOT and meet the specific construction requirements that apply to all motor vehicles.

Technically, an e-scooter could meet the construction standards to be ‘road legal’, but most do not as they do not have legally required features such as rear lights, number plates or turn signals i.e. indicators.

Additionally, the City of London Police’s Roads Policing Unit said: "It’s not possible to get insurance for a private e-scooter, meaning they’re illegal to use on roads or public places.

"If you use an e-scooter in any public place in the city, whether it’s on the road, the pavement or other public place, you will be breaking the law and can be prosecuted.”

While the e-scooters being used in the current trials do not have to meet the standard for other motor vehicles, it is important to note that only e-scooters rented from approved companies can be used in those towns and cities that are taking part in the pilot schemes. They can also only be used on roads, not pavements or other public spaces.

You will need to check your area to see if an e-scooter trial is being run to know whether you can legally ride one and, if so, it must be an e-scooter rented from an approved vendor and you must abide by all of the relevant rules.

What are the rules for e-scooters in the UK?

There are various rules that apply when using an e-scooter and these rules may vary depending in what pilot scheme the trial is running. Common rules include:

  • You must be 18 years or over to use an e-scooter
  • You must have  a category Q entitlement (which all full or provisional UK licences for categories AM, A or B have)
  • You may need to complete an online course before using an e-scooter
  • E-scooters must only be used on roads, not pavements or other public spaces
  • You must abide by all standard road and motoring laws, e.g. not using an e-scooter while drunk, obeying stop signals at traffic lights and riding with due care and attention
  • Cycle helmets are not a requirement but are recommended
  • E-scooters taking part in the schemes are limited to 15.5 miles per hour (8mph in London)
  • You cannot carry passengers and there are weight restrictions

The need to fully understand the rules for use of e-scooters in the area in which a pilot scheme applies cannot be overstated. You will need to ensure that you read the ‘small print’ as, when you decide to use an e-scooter, you are agreeing to comply with the rules of the rental operators and also the law.

Not reading or understanding the rules and conditions will not provide a defence for any offence committed by the improper use of e-scooters and will not prevent the lawful penalties which follow.

What are the penalties for illegal use of an e-scooter?

Potential penalties for illegal use of an e-scooter are broadly the same as for offences which involve the use of any other motor vehicle and include:

  • Fines for riding on pavements (the Metropolitan Police, for example, have said they will issue fines of £50 for this)
  • A fine and 3-9 penalty points, and possible disqualification from driving if convicted of driving without due car and attention.
  • A fine and 6 penalty points for using a mobile phone while riding an e-scooter
  • A fine and 6 penalty points for driving without insurance (only applies to private e-scooters, not those rented through the government trials as such rental operators provide insurance)
  •  A fine and 3-6 penalty points for driving without a licence
  •  A fine for driving without an MOT (for private e-scooters only)

In cases of dangerous use of an e-scooter, you could be prosecuted for more serious offences, including dangerous driving, for which you could be sent to prison as well as disqualified from driving.

If you are found to be riding a private e-scooter illegally, it could also potentially be seized by police.

Looking for legal advice on an e-scooter accident?

If you have been involved in a collision involving an e-scooter or are facing a penalty for illegal use of an e-scooter, our road traffic offences solicitors in Newport are on hand to lend practical support and guidance.

We can provide police station representation, support during an investigation or prosecution, or early advice if you are concerned about a potential offence.

Give us a call at our offices in Newport or fill in our simple online enquiry form, and a member of our team will be in touch in due course.