Electric scooters are a very modern solution for city mobility. Low on the carbon footprint yet agile enough to carry one person far quicker than walking or even cycling, electric scooters rose to popularity very quickly. But are they actually legal to rise in the UK?
As of 4th July 2020, the law regarding electric scooters in the UK has been changed. The devices are now road legal, but with very strict limitations. You are now able to ride electric scooters on roads, cycle paths and cycle lanes, but only if it’s part of a hire scheme. Owners of their own device are still restricted to only ride on private land with permission from the land owner.
Should you break these rules it’s possible that you’ll receive a £300 GBP fixed penalty notice. This is more than the cost of an entry-level electric scooter, so a hefty penalty in itself. However, you’ll also receive six points on your driving license (if you have one).
Electric Scooter Hire
Furthermore, those wishing to hire an electric scooter must be at least 16 years old and hold a Provisional Driving License. There have been many electric scooter hire scheme trials in the UK, including a successful campaign operating in London’s Olympic Park. The government is now extending these trials across the country.
Rollouts were initially planned to begin in 2021. However, this has been accelerated in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak and will begin this week. Several electric scooter companies have confirmed their involvement in pilot schemes, including Bird and Lime.
Privately Owned Electric Scooters
The reasoning behind the limitations on privately owned devices are simple. As part of the trial the government wishes to keep an eye on where scooters are being ridden and how. This is only possible if the electric scooters are GPS-enabled, which is a staple of all existing hire schemes.
The difference currently is one of fun versus convenience. If your interest in electric scooters is purely recreational is may serve better to purchase your own (as long as you have authorised access to private land in which to use it). However, if it’s for genuine travel you’ll have to opt for a hire scheme at present.
Alternative Types of Electric Vehicles
If this all sounds like too many hoops to jump through, there are alternatives. Electric bikes, for example, are considered the same as regular bicycles. This means that you don’t have to be taxed or insured. You do have to be at least 14 years old to ride one, however. Furthermore, the motor cannot exceed a maximum output of 250 watts, and cannot travel at more than 15.5 miles-per-hour (mph).
Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs are divided into two types. Class two cannot be used on the road and have a maximum speed of 4 mph. Class three can be used on the road however, and have a top speed of 8 mph. These vehicles have to be registered and you must be at least 14 years old to drive one.
The Future of Electric Scooters
The changes that have now come into effect appear to suggest that it will only be a matter of time before electric scooters are fully legalised in the UK. However, there’s no determining what the rules concerning helmets, engine size and maximum speed may be.
NOTE: All information correct at the time of publication. Laws and rules are set to change without prior notice and may not be reflected in this article after the date of publication.