Privately owned e-scooters to be legalised for use on public roads

Transport minister announces plans to create new vehicle category for e-scooters as part of upcoming Transport Bill

E-Scooters

Privately owned e-scooters will be legalised for use on public roads and cycle lanes in the UK as part of the Government’s new Transport Bill.

Speaking in the House of Lords, transport minister Baroness Vere said the Government planned “to create a regulatory framework for smaller, lighter, zero-emission vehicles, sometimes known as e-scooters”.

She added: “It is our intention that the [Transport] Bill will create a low-speed, zero-emission vehicle category that is independent from the cycle and motor vehicle categories. New powers would allow the Government to decide the vehicles that fall into this new category in future and how they should be regulated to make sure that they are safe to use. We hope that e-scooters will be the first of these vehicles.”

The confirmation came after a series of hints from transport secretary Grant Shapps, Government spokespeople and even the Prince of Wales when addressing the state opening of parliament on behalf of the Queen.

At present, only e-scooters operated, registered and insured by authorised rental firms can legally be used on public roads. These scooters require riders to scan a full or provisional UK driving licence in order to unlock them, and include speed limiters as well as geofencing technology to prevent them being used in inappropriate locations. The Government has previously indicated that, in order to be legalised for road use, privately owned e-scooters would have to comply with similar measures.

Private e-scooters can be purchased legally in the UK for use on private land, but the law currently forbids their use on the public highway. Although police often confiscate privately owned e-scooters being used on the road, this does little to discourage many people who continue to illegally ride them.

Data previously acquired by the Major Trauma Group, which comprises legal and health professionals, reveals that NHS ambulance trusts were called to 82 per cent more e-scooter accidents in 2021 than in 2020.

The scooters have some high-profile detractors, one of whom is Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Speaking at the FT Future of the Car Summit, he said: “Scooters are very dangerous. I would not recommend anyone drive a scooter. If there's ever an argument between a scooter and a car, the scooter will lose.”

AA president Edmund King said that “safety regulation should come first”, adding that e-scooters “must be introduced alongside appropriate infrastructure”. King believes regulations for private e-scooters should include a maximum speed of 15.5mph and set minimum standards for brakes, lights, indicators and wheel size, as well as a requirement for the rider to be at least 16 years of age.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes commented: “Legalising private e-scooter use on public roads could transform shorter journeys in urban and other built-up areas.”

He added: “It is vital that the Government looks carefully at how legalisation can be done safely and that learnings are taken from the myriad of trials that are taking place across the country.”

Full details of the Transport Bill are yet to be announced, but Auto Express understands that it will also include commitments to install more EV chargepoints throughout the UK and legislation to enable the use of self-driving and remotely operated vehicles.

What are your thoughts on e-scooters? Let us know in the comments...

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