Electric scooters are quickly gaining popularity among commuters looking for a quick and eco-friendly way to get around.
- Electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular in cities across the world
- There are concerns about whether e-scooters are safe and they’re currently illegal in the UK
- The government is considering next steps on whether the law should be changed
Despite being dubbed ‘the future of transport’, personal use e-scooters are currently illegal in the UK. Rental e-scooters are legal, and trials of rental e-scooters are in place around the country. Our guide explores exactly why that is, why they’re so popular in other countries and whether UK law will change.
What is an e-scooter?
An e-scooter or evo scooter is a motorised 2-wheel vehicle, also known as a Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV).
They’re completely motorised, use no pedals and don’t require you to push along with your foot to keep going. Electric scooters have an average speed of 12mph and travel around 11 miles before needing a recharge. This has made them an attractive prospect for city dwellers.
It’s no secret that densely populated cities are badly congested and polluted. Using an e-scooter could help reduce the environmental impact of their commute, as well as save them time.
Folding PLEVs are light enough to be taken on the train or bus, reassembled for that final mile or so to the office.
Are electric scooters road legal?
Personal use electric scooters are not currently road legal in the UK and are subject to the same rules as other motorised vehicles, meaning they can’t be insured or used on pavements. Rental e-scooters are legal as part of government trials. Under the new e-scooter rules, rental scooters can be used in cycle lanes and on roads, but not on pavements. You'll need to hold a full or provisional driving licence to use a trial e-scooter. Those who don't hold a driving license will be able to apply for a provisional one, but must be 16 or over.
Personal use electric scooters are not currently road legal in the UK and are subject to the same rules as other motorised vehicles, meaning they can’t be insured or used on pavements. Rental e-scooters are legal as part of government trials.
Electric scooter use in other countries
As commuters become increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, some are looking for greener forms of travel, while others just want to spend less time on the road. In both Europe and the US, it seems electric scooters have become the answer.
Global e-scooter usage has grown in recent years, with more than 100 cities having access . Many offer pick-up-and-ride day rentals, similar to London’s “Boris Bike” scheme.
In well-loved European destinations like Paris and Rome, the e-scooters are commonplace and available to hire via an app.
According to reports, there were 20,000 electric scooters on the streets of Paris in 2018. Their numbers are also high in traditionally bike-friendly nirvanas like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Though an increase in scooter numbers alongside bicycles has led to congested cycle lanes and roads.
Benefits of an e-scooter
Here are just a few of the potential reasons e-scooters have seen an increase in numbers:
- Cost-effective – there’s no need for petrol with an e-scooter, and most can be charged on the mains at home or at the office.
- Eco-friendly – by running on batteries, there are no harmful emissions, helping to improve inner-city air quality. However, their production does have an impact on the environment.
- Time-saving – by avoiding traffic or speeding up long walks, electric scooters can save time on a morning commute or when passing through busy city centres.
Will there be a change in the law?
The UK government had been considering whether to repeal the ban on evo scooters for some time, as part of their efforts to make travel greener. However, the coronavirus crisis has meant looking at ways to reduce the numbers of people on public transport, making e-scooters a more viable option. As the government works towards net zero emissions by 2050, e-scooters could help to reduce road use.
Critics have called for tighter regulations due to an increase in e-scooter-related accidents across the continent, some of which have been fatal.
Though e-scooters are banned from UK roads, there are still those that ride them. In July 2019, the UK saw its first electric scooter-related death when a 35-year old rider was struck by a lorry .
Road legal scooters
Though personal use e-scooters are illegal, many leading manufacturers and motorbike companies offer electric options when it comes to traditionally designed mopeds and motorbikes.
Established brands such as Piaggio Vespa and Harley Davidson are moving into electric bike territory, with more eco-friendly models announced. These vehicles, though running on electricity, feature advanced power units that can deliver the speeds required to travel safely on roads and abide by electric moped UK law.
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