It's interesting that in a survey conducted by BSB Solicitors only a quarter of Brits were able to correctly identify that electric scooters are illegal for use anywhere in the UK other than on public land, especially when you take into account that the market for them has never been bigger.
Electric scooters - kick-scooters that also build in a low-power motor - are classified as PLEVs, or Personal Light Electric Vehicles. They are not subject to taxes or registration, and as such cannot legally be used on the road in the UK, although this could be changing soon - more on that later.
The current ruling seems hideously out-of-date, particularly when you consider that electric scooters typically go only slightly faster than the non-electric scooters favoured by many kids on route to school or even adults during their commute.
However, because they are motorised and have no pedals they are illegal for use on cycle lanes and pavements, and because they are low-powered they are illegal for use on the road.
If you are riding an electric scooter responsibly and showing due care to pedestrians and road users, we find it unlikely that you will be pulled over by the police. But if you are caught, you face an on-the-spot penalty of £300 and six points on your driving licence.
So how likely is that to happen?
Will the police seize your electric scooter or fine you for riding it?
In July 2019 we began seeing reports in the national news of the Metropolitan Police seizing electric scooters and dishing out fines and warnings to those riding them. This action followed the death of TV presenter Emily Hartridge, who was tragically killed in a collision with a lorry while riding an electric scooter.
The Telegraph reports that as a result of the Met's first operation targeting electric scooters almost 100 people in London were pulled over. Of those 100, however, only 10 were fined and had their scooters seized, a decision that was made because they were acting irresponsibly, for example speeding or breaking red lights, rather than riding them in the first place.
But while the Met is acting against - at the very least - irresponsible riders, the same can't necessarily be said for police forces elsewhere in the country.
Tech Advisor spoke to Ed Wiles, founder of Scootered.co.uk, whose own research suggests it is really only London police forces that are currently taking action. Having submitted FOI requests to every UK police force, only City of London has so far confirmed that it has seized a single scooter.
Wiles also notes that seized scooters can be recovered from the vehicle recovery unit at a cost.
The good news is that it looks like the tides are changing, as it has been revealed that a Government initiative aims to legalise electric scooters in the UK as part of a wider plan to encourage green transportation and find a more efficient approach to "last-mile" deliveries.
The Times reports that the aim of the initiative is to make electric scooters a viable transport option for use in the UK. It's proposed that electric scooters are placed in the same category as bicycles, potentially allowing the use of scooters in roads and cycle lanes - with the caveat that the scooter has a speed inhibitor that caps top speed at 15.5mph.
There's a question around whether riders will need to wear a helmet by law, but considering the fact that a recent US study found that electric scooter injuries skyrocketed by 222 percent between 2014 and 2018, we imagine it'll probably be the case.
Speaking to The Times, Transport minister George Freeman said that "the Department for Transport is committed to encouraging innovation in transport as well as improving road safety,". It's a welcome change, and one that we hope gets pushed through quickly.
The Future of Transport Regulatory Review is happening right now, so the laws about eScooter use in the UK could be changed in a matter of months.
Where are electric scooters legal?
While the UK has been slow to adopt electric scooters as a form of transport, other European countries are taking a much more modern approach to things. In France a PLEV can go up to 25km/hour in a cycle lane, while Austria and Switzerland additionally extend this to road use. In France and Germany a PLEV can also go up to 6km/hour on the pavement.
The US State of California is also accepting of PLEVs in cycle lanes and on pavements and roads, provided the riders are over 16 and wearing a helmet. By comparison, riding a PLEV in New York City will land you a $500 fine.
What alternatives do you have?
It seems unfair, but it's worth noting that EAPCs (e-bikes) are treated in the eyes of the law as standard bikes provided they have pedals, go under 25km/hour, have working front and rear brakes at all times, lights and reflectors at night, and motors rated no higher than 250W. An electric scooter can meet many - but not all - of these requirements.
There is a lot of confusion among consumers regarding whether an electric scooter is classed as a moped, and it’s likely that this is due to their similarities with the more expensive and significantly faster GoPeds which were popular a few years back.
GoPeds are treated as mopeds in UK law, which means you cannot ride them on the pavement and if you wish to do so on the road they must be road-legal, taxed and insured. The rider must also be over the age of 16 and wearing a helmet.