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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 private land - with the exception of new rental schemes being trialled in various areas of the UK - 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, with the exception of rental scooters which come with insurance and possibly even license plates - more on that later.
The current ruling seems hideously out-of-date, particularly when you consider that electric scooters offer the same speeds as electric bikes favoured by many on their commute.
If you are riding a privately-owned 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.
During a Government daily Coronavirus briefing in May 2020, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed that plans to evaluate electric scooters in the UK had been brought forward to June 2020, and that the scheme will be nationwide and not specific to four regions as originally planned.
The Transport Secretary made the announcement amidst other plans to address changes to the UK’s public transport infrastructure as lockdown measures are eased, to avoid mass build-ups on trains and buses. Members of the public are advised to walk, cycle and soon, eScoot to work where possible.
As confirmed by the Government, the electric scooter trial is set to begin on 4 July, but it's not as straightforward as many might've hoped.
The trial is focused on rental electric and not those that are privately owned. The main reason for this seems to be insurance requirements, which are easy for rental companies to implement but much harder for private individuals to find - it's not like you can go on confused.com to insure your e-Scooter.
Even if you do decide to hop on a rental electric scooter during the trial, you have to hold either a provisional or full UK drivers license and be aged 16 or over.
The good news is that the Government scrapped the proposed 12.5mph speed limit, instead allowing the same 15.5mph speed limit as many other European countries, and it's the same speed electric bikes are limited to, too. While wearing a helmet is recommended when riding an electric scooter, it's not mandatory.
Crucially, you can only ride rental scooters on roads. It's still illegal to ride any electric scooter on pavements, and the same goes for privately-owned scooters on any public land, if we haven't been clear enough up until this point.
While that doesn't bode well for those of us who already own electric scooters, it's worth noting that some restrictions are only in place for the trial period, and it's likely that privately-owned scooters will be legalised further down the road.
The e-scooter trials can begin at any point from July and end of August 2020, and can run for a maximum of 12 months, although it's not clear yet which local authorities have signed up for the trials. We'll update this section as more is announced, so check back soon for more details on the trial.
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.