Is it Legal to Ride an Electric Scooter in the UK?
Owning and riding an electric scooter in the UK is legal, as long as you stay on private land and have the landowner’s permission. Riding electric scooters on public roads, cycle lanes or pavements is illegal. That could all be about to change as the UK government reviews electric scooter law. We’ll have a look at the current law and regulations in the UK.
The Current Legal Position
UK electric scooters are currently classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles by the 1988 Road Traffic Act. They are considered to be ‘motor vehicles’. To be allowed on the road requires them to be taxed and licensed with a valid MOT certificate. They must also meet the same legal requirements as cars, including number plates and signalling ability. Electric scooter law in the UK has to change!
So where does this leave electric scooters – in the cycle lane? Unfortunately not. Electric bikes can use cycle lanes as long as they have a limited speed, motor rating and pedals – ruling electric scooters out once again.
Clearly, current UK laws governing eScooters are confusing and outdated. They muddy the long-standing definition of a ‘vehicle’. Electric scooters are omitted from current legal categories, so have no right to use the roads, pavements or cycle paths in the UK.
As electric scooters are already in widespread use across our towns and cities, manufacturers, riders and environmental campaigners have been putting pressure on the government to review the legal position – and it’s working.
The Future of Transport
The Department for Transport has made a commitment to encourage innovation in transport to help meet its’ goals of reduced congestion and emissions.
In March 2020 the Department for Transport launched the ‘Future of Transport Regulatory Review’. It acknowledged the need to “address areas of regulation that are outdated, a barrier to innovation, or not designed with new technologies in mind.”
This review of transport laws is an important and positive step towards the legalisation of electric scooters on UK roads.
The Call for Evidence states, “We want transport to be cleaner, safer, healthier, greener, cheaper, more convenient, and more inclusive. As regulators, we will judge every innovation on whether it serves those ends, or undermines them.”
That’s great news for electric scooters. They offer a convenient, affordable and emission-free travel solution, encouraging drivers away from their cars and reduced pollution. Electric scooters support the government’s aim to encourage the use of public transport. They are ideal for ‘first mile and last mile’ transportation.
This is a timely first step towards legalising the road use of eScooters in the UK.
Electric Scooter Road Trials
An important part of the Department for Transport’s investigation into the legalisation of eScooters on UK roads will be testing and assessment.
£90 million has been invested in the creation of four initial ‘Future Transport Zones’. They will be used to trial emerging travel technologies and innovations including electric scooters, delivery drones and self-driving cars.
The main focus will be to consider any restrictions for them to operate safely alongside traditional vehicles on UK streets. These trials are imminent, though the old legislation must be changed before the pilot schemes can begin. That process can take several months, so current estimates are that trials are scheduled to start in late 2020.
In the meantime, an unofficial UK trial has been taking place at the Olympic Park where eScooters have been available for the public to hire since November 2018. This is possible (and legal) because the Olympic Park is technically privately owned property. The trial ran for a couple of months and has been extended twice. Thousands of people travelled by electric scooter suggesting the scheme has been a success.
The Department for Transport consultation is expected to approve legalisation of electric scooters for use in public spaces. The Call for Reponses document is focused on maintaining the safety of other road users, making it likely that a range of regulations will be applied.
Current trials will assess the rules for both riders and manufacturers to ensure safety on the UK roads. Suggested restrictions include speed limits in built-up areas, a minimum age, wearing a helmet, and manufacturers fitting speed inhibitors to cap the speed, probably at around 15 mph.
The most likely outcome is that electric scooters will be placed in the same legal category as electric bikes, allowing them to use the public roads and cycle lanes. E-bikes require front and rear brakes, lights and reflectors when used at night, and motors rated 250W or lower. Grouping electric scooters with e-bikes is sensible as cyclists reach similar speeds to electric scooters. At the same time, the average speed of a car in central London is now only 6-7mph.
Whatever happens, wearing a helmet on public roads will be required. We have a selection of stylish and robust headwear on our Accessories Page.
Regulations in Other Countries
It’s clear that the UK is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to regulation. Electric scooters are extremely popular across Europe. Rental apps such as Lime, Jump and Bird operate hubs for hiring electric scooters in a number of European cities.
At present, 3 countries in Europe have yet to legalise the use of electric scooters in public spaces: Holland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK. Many other countries support the use of electric scooters as an eco-friendly transport method, particularly in urban environments.
In France, it is legal to ride an eScooter in a cycle lane or on the pavement. Germany recently updated legislation to allow riders aged over 14 and wearing a helmet, to ride on cycle paths or roads where no cycle path is available. Electric scooters are hugely popular in Italy for sightseeing with both residents and tourists on public roads. In Austria and Switzerland electric scooters can legally use cycle lanes and roads at speeds of up to 25kph.
The Time is Right – UK Electric Scooter Law 2020
Electric scooters as a fun, efficient and environmentally friendly transport have forced the UK government to begin legalisation. The outdated law is no longer fit for purpose in an age of evolving technology. The UK, once a world innovator, is getting left behind. The Department for Transport’s Future of Transport Regulatory Review is a positive step towards the UK’s laws catching up with the rest of the world.
Electric scooters are an ideal solution to achieving a number of the government’s transport revolution goals; towards greener, cleaner, more affordable and accessible modes of travel.
Once riding an eScooter becomes legal on the UK’s streets, uptake is certain to increase. This will bring a range of benefits, including reducing congestion and urban air pollution. As the government supported the introduction of cleaner electric cars with convenient charging points in city centre parking spaces, could we possibly see the same for scooter parks?
Regulation of electric scooters will encourage safe and responsible electric scooter usage. Until the legal position is clarified, and there is a clear UK scooter law in 2020, there is no way to enforce minimum safety requirements and riding standards. The sooner the government updates the current legislation to make eScooters legal on public roads, the better for everyone.