Exciting development: The purchase of electric scooters is now legal in the United Kingdom. While there are several regions where renting and riding them on public roads is permitted, it is not yet lawful to ride privately-owned scooters on public streets. However, there is hope for change on the horizon, possibly by 2024.
Present Regulations for Private Scooters – March 2023 Electric scooters, also known as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), are considered motorized two-wheel vehicles. They are classified as motor vehicles under road traffic laws, distinguishing them from electric bicycles.
Why are Electric Scooters Deemed Illegal? The primary reason for the illegality of electric scooters is their non-compliance with road traffic regulations. Most notably, they lack rear lights and registration plates, which renders their usage on UK roads unlawful.
Consequently, it is commonly stated that these scooters are only legal for use on private property with the explicit consent of the landowner. However, potential changes in the future may modify these restrictions.
Consequences of Violation If caught riding a privately-owned scooter on a public highway, you would be considered to be operating a motor vehicle without insurance. This offense could result in a fixed penalty of £300 and six penalty points on your driving license. In more severe cases, if the matter proceeds to court, you may face an unlimited fine and a driving disqualification. Furthermore, the police have the authority to impound your scooter.
Even if you own a model that adheres to the current regulations, additional legal requirements must be fulfilled, including taxation, insurance, MOT (Ministry of Transport) certification, possession of a driving license, and the use of a helmet.
Despite these restrictions, some individuals still choose to ride scooters unlawfully. For instance, Giovanna Drago is suing a London council for £30,000 after sustaining a broken leg from riding an illegally operated e-scooter that hit a pothole in Barnet.
Acquiring “Illegal” Scooters It is feasible to purchase scooters without any indication that they are currently illegal for use on UK roads. Some scooters available for purchase have exceedingly high maximum speeds that will never be legalized in the UK. Tom McNeil, the West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, has demanded government action to address these high-speed scooters, stating, “I have written to the government demanding to know why it has failed to tighten the rules around e-scooters.”
Current Regulations for Rental Scooters – March 2023 The government is presently conducting trials in 31 regions where rental scooters can legally be used on public roads (excluding motorways) and in designated cycle lanes. In December 2022, a report on the trial findings was published.
During these trials, the rental companies arrange insurance coverage, and users are required to possess a valid driving license (full or provisional) falling under categories AM, A1, A2, A, or B. Subsequently, users can ride these e-scooters on roads, in cycle lanes, and on tracks (excluding pavements). While helmets are recommended, they are not mandatory.
Initially, the trials were set to conclude on November 30, 2021, but were extended due to the pandemic. They were then extended a second time and are now scheduled to finish on November 30, 2022. Participating local authorities have recently been given the choice to either conclude their local trials or extend them until May 31, 2024.
Noteworthy scooter rental companies participating in the trials include TIER, Lime, Voi, and Dott.
The inclusion of privately-owned e-scooters on public roads remains prohibited even within these trial areas.
Concerns have been raised regarding the age-verification process after a tragic incident in Birmingham on December 6, 2022. A 12-year-old boy riding a Voi e-scooter was involved in a fatal collision with a bus, prompting scrutiny of the effectiveness of age verification measures.
Expansion of Electric Scooter Trials in 2023 and 2024 Currently, the following regions are participating in the trial areas:
- Bournemouth and Poole
- Buckinghamshire (Aylesbury, High Wycombe, and Princes Risborough)
- Milton Keynes
- South Somerset (Yeovil)
- West Midlands (Birmingham, Coventry, and Sandwell) – paused as of March 1, refer below
- Cheshire West and Chester
- Copeland (Whitehaven)
- Essex (Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Colchester)
- Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and Gloucester)
- Great Yarmouth
- London (participating boroughs)
- North and West Northamptonshire (Northampton, Kettering, Corby, and Wellingborough)
- North Devon (Barnstaple)
- North Lincolnshire (Scunthorpe)
- Oxfordshire (Oxford)
- Solent (Isle of Wight and Southampton)
- Somerset West (Taunton and Minehead)
- Tees Valley (Hartlepool and Middlesbrough)
- West of England Combined Authority (Bristol and Bath)
Some areas, such as Kent (Canterbury), Sandwell, and Slough, temporarily suspended their trials in late 2022, but there are potential plans to restart in the summer of 2023.
Future Changes to Private Scooter Regulations The government is actively considering the legalization of e-scooters for private use. Key aspects being deliberated include:
- Should e-scooters be treated similarly to electric bicycles?
- What should be the maximum speed or power limit?
- Is the presence of a handlebar compulsory?
- Should e-scooters be allowed in cycle lanes?
- What regulations should be implemented regarding braking distances, lights, size, etc.?
- Should users be required to register their scooters, possess a license, or be of a certain age?
A recent government consultation revealed that the prevailing consensus leans towards legally treating e-scooters like electric bicycles. The majority of respondents expressed support for their legalization, emphasizing the need for clear regulations.
The Awaited Arrival of Legalized E-Scooters in the UK Approved rental scooters within the trial areas are already deemed legal for use on public roads, provided the rider possesses a valid driving license. The timeline for legalizing privately-owned scooters depends on the government. Initially, legislation was expected to be enacted during the current Parliamentary session, which concludes before spring 2023.
However, the announcement was made in October before Rishi Sunak assumed the position of Prime Minister, and no further commitment has been made regarding the matter.
Additionally, there has been discussion of extending the current parliamentary session until autumn, which could further delay the legislation on electric mobility. Unfortunately, it might not be until 2024 that we witness privately-owned e-scooters becoming fully legal in the UK.
To stay informed about the latest updates and developments, it is recommended to follow official government announcements, news sources, and local authorities in your area.