Are e-scooters illegal? What the UK law says about where and when you can ride them, and are they safe?

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E-scooters are controversial

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons Transport Committee that new legislation would be announced in the Queen’s May 10 speech.

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He said the new regulations would help ensure their correct use on public roads amid safety concerns and confusion over how and when to legally use them.

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Before the expected announcement, let’s review the rules as they currently stand.

Are e-scooters illegal in the UK?

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(Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP)

E-scooters are not illegal in the UK and you can legally buy, sell and own one.

However, it is illegal to use an e-scooter in public unless rented under an approved insurance company experimental scheme.

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Using an e-scooter on private property is legal, but for public use they are classified as powered vans, meaning that e-scooters are subject to the same laws that govern the use of cars and other motor vehicles.

This means that it is forbidden to ride them on sidewalks, footpaths, bike lanes and in pedestrian zones.

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(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

To be driven on public roads, they must conform to the same rules as cars, with license plates, turn signals, taillights, taxes, and insurance but the products currently on sale do not meet these conditions.

The only exception to these laws are the government-approved studies conducted in 32 UK cities.

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E-scooters rented through these systems may be ridden on roads and cycle paths and are insured by the operators. The scooters are limited to 25.5 km/h, with lower limits imposed by geofencing in some areas. Privately owned e-scooters are not affected by the studies and are still not allowed to be used in public.

Do I need a driver’s license to drive an e-scooter?

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Yes. The testing programs all require drivers to hold a UK driving license with a Q rating.

A full or provisional driver’s license for categories AM, A or B includes eligibility for category Q. If you hold one of these driver’s licenses, you can use an e-scooter.

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Drivers with foreign driver’s licenses can also use the trial scooters as long as they have a full driver’s license that entitles them to drive a small vehicle such as a car or motorcycle.

What are the fines and penalties for unauthorized use of an e-scooter?

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Drivers caught using an e-scooter illegally face the same penalties as other drivers who break the law.

These include fines of up to £300 and up to six penalty points on your driving licence. Serious offenses can result in your license being revoked and the police can also confiscate your scooter.

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Are e-scooters dangerous?

A number of incidents of people being killed or seriously injured in e-scooter accidents have highlighted concerns about their suitability and safety.

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At least four people in the UK have died as a result of scooter incidents and earlier this year a three-year-old in London suffered life-changing injuries after being hit by one.

The Department of Transportation released the first data on e-scooter casualties showing that in 2020 One person was killed and 128 seriously injured. A total of 484 victims were registered. Most were drivers themselves, but 100 other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, also suffered serious injuries.

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In 2019, YouTuber Emily Hartridge became the first person to die after an accident while riding an e-scooter. The following year, Julian Thomas, 55, died after crashing into a parked car. In June 2021, 20-year-old Shakur Amoy Pinnock also died as a result of his e-scooter colliding with a car. And this July, a 16-year-old was thrown off his scooter and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

There are also reports across the country of pedestrians being hit by e-scooter riders, some seriously injured, and the National Federation of the Blind has warned that the near-silent vehicles are creating “no-go areas” for the visually impaired .

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The exact number of e-scooter-related accidents and injuries is unclear, but the Met Police believe the number of incidents is underreported. In London, the number of reported collisions rose from four in 2018 to 32 in 2019.

According to an investigation by ITV This evening program, there have been 1,100 complaints since the trials began and 210 people have been injured in e-scooter incidents.

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Using data from the US, Transport for London compared bicycle and e-scooter injuries and concluded that the rate of serious injuries on e-scooter rides was about 100 times higher than on cyclists.

Government advice for the current trials is that riders should wear a helmet, but there is no legal requirement to do so.

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While rental scooters are limited to 25.5 km/h, scooters available to the public can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h.

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