The Transport Committee (the "Committee") has launched an inquiry into the safety and legal implications of e-scooters, their impact on congestion, and potential contribution to reducing the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of the Government's obligations to reach net zero by 2050. The inquiry complements a larger Department for Transport consultation on micromobility vehicles which was launched earlier this year.

E-scooters are classified as a type of motor vehicle in the UK, known as 'personal light electric vehicles' or 'powered transporters', and are covered by laws that apply to all motor vehicles, including the requirements of the Road Traffic Act 1988 on Vehicle Excise Duty and technical safety standards. The UK is the only major European economy which has a ban on the use of e-scooters on public roads. If you are caught riding an e-scooter in the UK under the current law, you could be prosecuted with potential penalties ranging from fines and penalty points to disqualification from driving.

The Inquiry

The Committee's inquiry will consider whether e-scooters should be permitted on roads, cycle lanes and/or pavements. Any change to the current law would require primary legislation to be passed through Parliament.

The Committee has said that it would, in particular, like to hear from manufacturers and the public on:

  • whether the legislation for e-scooters is up to date and appropriate;
  • the positive benefits of e-scooters;
  • where e-scooters could be used in the urban environment and how this might impact other road users and pedestrians;
  • whether there should be advice or compulsory requirements to use safety equipment when using an e-scooter;
  • whether there should be safety and environmental regulation for the build of e-scooters; and
  • the experience of other countries where e-scooters can legally be used on the roads.

The closing date for written evidence is Tuesday 2 June 2020.

Comment

While it has been recognised that e-scooters could be helpful in reducing the UK's transport carbon footprint and in transforming transport within cities, any decision to change the law to permit the use of e-scooters in public places in the UK will undoubtedly pose complex considerations for policymakers to balance to ensure the benefits of using e-scooters can be maximised while ensuring safety for road users. There is some concern that legalising e-scooters could cause problems once they are allowed on the roads if there is a lack of proper regulation but, as sales of e-scooters are increasing along with their use across Europe and America, there is growing pressure on the Government to act. As the use of e-scooters is already permitted in public places in a number of countries across the world, the UK will have the benefit of drawing on the experiences of and regulations in place in other countries in considering whether to allow their introduction here in the UK.