What's the deal with Electric Scooters?
The idea of electrically powered vehicles is nothing new but it has been dormant for decades. It is only in recent years that the concept has created enthusiasm as a means of helping achieve carbon net-zero. We are now reinventing our modes of transport that are so often reliant on internal combustion, in favour of electric-powered vehicles and even the exploration of hydrogen fuel.
Meanwhile, the smallest and simplest of personal vehicles, which have only ever used human power, are finding themselves added to the mix. E scooters and e-bikes are an important part of the electric future too.
There is relatively little controversy about electric cars since this is just a new way of powering an already heavily regulated form of transport. However, the introduction of battery power to scooters has changed their nature fundamentally. This is why in order to accommodate the growth in popularity of electric scooters UK law must find a way to guarantee their safe use.
Why Are Electric Scooters Illegal?
The short answer is that they are not. It is perfectly legal to buy and own one. It is, however, illegal to ride one on a public road, cycle lane or pavement.
The Legality Conundrum
If you are unsure how to classify electric scooters, UK law regards them as powered transporters which means they are subject to the same regulations as cars and other motor vehicles. These rules require all conveyances to have MOTs, registration plates, lights and indicators and to be taxed and insured. The current difficulty is that these features are currently unavailable in the UK. Not every electric scooter is fitted with lights, and there is no official method of obtaining licence plates. Similarly, it is not possible to tax an e scooter, even if you tried to do so. And without valid tax, you can't get insurance.
This has faint echoes of chickens and eggs. They are not yet legal on public roads because it is not physically possible to meet the legal criteria. Fortunately, if belatedly, local authorities are conducting government-approved trials in 32 cities across the UK to assess their safety and efficacy. These trials are the only exception to the legal ban.
In order to take part in one of these trials of electric scooters, UK law requires you to hold a UK driving licence with a Q entitlement, which means a provisional licence is sufficient. Holders of foreign licences can also take part.
However, these trials have limitations. The only e scooters that can be used in the trials are those you rent from the operators of the scheme, which those operators insure. Privately owned e scooters are not eligible.
What if You Ride an E Scooter Illegally?
It is an offence to ride an electric scooter in places where they are prohibited. You could receive a fine of up to £300 and six points on your licence. If riders cause damage to property or injury to other people while using electric scooters UK law renders you liable in exactly the same way as if you had caused harm by driving a car. Your scooter could be impounded and you may even receive a driving ban.
Much is written in the press about the hazards of electric scooters. Public outrage focuses on the deeply regrettable cases of injury and even death caused to other road users but most casualties are electric scooter riders themselves. There have been isolated knee-jerk reactions and calls for them to be banned outright. Fortunately, this has not happened and the official trials are the first sensible step towards assimilating these incredibly useful machines into our transport systems.
In reality, the dangerous aspects of electric scooters are the result of ignorance and inexperience. Proper education of riders and the public will go a long way towards eradicating the entirely avoidable accidents that have occurred in recent years.
When will Electric Scooters be legal in the UK?
When it comes to the authorisation and regulation of electric scooters, the UK’s law needs to catch up with technology. While electric scooters are left in their current legal limbo, nothing will change. A comprehensive system of training, licensing, taxing and insurance together with the technical additions required will turn something that at the moment is immensely enjoyable and environmentally friendly into an ideal alternative to the unwarranted use of cars for short local journeys.
For now, stay off the roads, have fun and be safe. It won't be long before electric scooter riders are hailed as pioneers!
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