Is the UK in the process of changing the law regarding electric scooters?Everyone at Pure Scooters is watching with interest as the British government begins examining whether historic transport regulations might be getting in the way of innovation.
In July 2018, The Department of Transport began its ‘The Future of Mobility’ consultation to examine new methods of transport – including electric scooters – and how the UK’s infrastructure and current laws might need to adapt to these new technologies. And in November 2018, Bird, the US electric scooter hire company was given permission to trial its rental scheme at London's Olympic Park.
At the moment, electric scooters are illegal to use on UK pavements, cycle lanes and public roads. Limiting legal usage to only private land. Pure Scooters believe that the UK laws have not evolved with usage, technology and modern times. The fact, the government has started consultation of new methods of transportation suggests, they may realise this too.
Electric Scooters and UK Pavements
Currently, it is illegal to ride an electric scooter on a UK pavement due to a 183-year-old law classifying them as a 'carriage'.
"If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon."
It could be argued that the 1835 Highways Act is vastly out of touch with modern day UK – after all its initial purpose all those years ago was to regulate horse-drawn carriages! The above quote sounds like something from a Dickens novel, not a law fit for the 21st century!
Electric Scooters and UK Roads
The UK's Department for Transport (DfT) views electric scooters as ‘Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV)’, because they’re powered by a motor, requiring them to be registered and taxed via DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). However, the law allows pedal-assisted electric bikes that are capped at 15.5 mph. The Xiaomi M365 Electric Scooter also travels less than 15.5 mph, it has handles, two-wheels, brakes and front / rear lights but because it doesn't have pedals, it is illegal!
Electric Scooters in Other Countries
Comparing the UK’s situation to elsewhere in the world where there isn’t the same legal restrictions, there has been a boom in this on-demand transport offering. Electric scooter rental companies have grown rapidly, in particular in the US, with leading players Bird and Lime running operations in many major US cities. These successes have seen them venture further afield with new operations in Vienna, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Zurich and Tel Aviv.
You can also see why they want to bring their operations to the UK. London and other large towns and cities that are aiming to reduce traffic, pollution and noise could really benefit from transport innovations such as the electric scooter which is currently being held back by this historic law.
A final word...
At Pure Scooters, we strongly believe that the British government will soon see the necessity of reviewing this historic law. If electric scooters are proved popular and acceptable in other countries then surely the UK wants to jump on the bandwagon (or electric scooter!) and look at amending the legislation.
What’s more, pressure from companies like us and also the big names such as Bird and Lime from the electric scooter rental market, coupled with the shift towards encouraging more environmentally friendly commuting, can only help the argument for making a change for the better.
We’re watching with interest how Bird’s recent trial of scooter rental in London (November 2018) plays out. If successful it further highlights the logic of following other European countries such as France, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany who have embraced the benefits of electric scooters and allow them on pavements, cycle lanes and roads.