E-scooter law and safety issues following festive shopping surge

15th January 2021
Lanna Deamer

The e-scooter craze is continuing as further trial schemes are introduced across various UK regions. As e-scooter popularity soars, concern is growing around public awareness of the legal standpoint on their usage, how safe the vehicles are and, for those in possession of an e-scooter, how they can be safely and adequately maintained.

Stewarts, shed light on the mounting calls for e-scooter legislation, and give maintenance advice from two leading e-scooter manufacturers.

E-scooter sales

Despite the strict ban on riding personal e-scooters in public places, sales continue to skyrocket. Halfords report that e-mobility product sales have nearly tripled over the last year. The cycling retailer says sales have grown by 184% in the first half of the 2020 financial year.

Knowing the law

While it is legal to sell and purchase an e-scooter in the UK for personal use, they cannot be legally ridden on public land (roads, cycle lanes or pavements), other than in an e-scooter trial area.

E-scooter trials

In the absence of reliable accident data and figures drawing comparisons to other modes of transport, e-scooter trials have been brought forward. New regulations allowing rental e-scooter trials came into force in July 2020.

Many local authorities are starting to introduce e-scooter trials, with Bristol, Bath and South Gloucestershire among some of the most recent. Bournemouth is set to launch e-scooter trials from 25th January. E-scooter use on roads and cycle lanes is permitted in trial scheme areas. The rules that currently apply to e-scooter riders within designated trial zones are:

  • Riders must not use a mobile phone
  • Riders must not drive an e-scooter while intoxicated
  • Carrying more than one person is not permitted
  • Normal rules of careless and dangerous driving apply
  • E-scooter users must have a valid UK driving licence
  • E-scooters in trials must be governed by a motor insurance policy
  • Minimum age - 16
  • Insurance is required but likely to be covered by the hire scheme company
  • E-scooters can reach speeds of up to 12.5mph
  • Current trials categorise e-scooters as a motor vehicle

E-scooters and insurance

With the growing popularity of e-scooters, alongside EAPCs (Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles) and Autonomous Vehicles (AV), there is a significant need for an appropriate legislative and insurance regime that applies to these vehicle types.

An appropriate insurance regime will protect both riders and victims of accidents involving e-scooters.

E-scooters maintenance: advice from the manufacturers

It is crucial for personal e-scooter owners to not only be aware of where they stand in the eyes of the law, but how they can go about safe e-scooter maintenance.

Mark Shaffer of PET (Personal Electric Transport) and Rob Akam, Managing Director of Reid Bikes offer e-scooter maintenance advice.

How difficult is it to keep an e-scooter well maintained to ensure safe use?

PET: Electric scooters by nature are reliable due to the limited number of moving parts compared to a bicycle. However, consumables such as tyres and brakes need regular maintenance. Depending on the model, the frame, suspension and folding mechanism should be checked periodically.

Reid Bikes: It is not particularly difficult keeping an e-scooter well maintained as long as you do some essential checks before and after riding. For example, checking all screws, cleaning your e-scooter, ensuring its stored away from direct sunlight, and making sure the battery is charged.

Can you take e-scooters to a garage? If so, what is the protocol for repairs to be carried out?

PET: No, maintaining electric scooters requires a different skillset and tools than that available to garage mechanics. However, most e-bike mechanics would be able to work on electric scooters subject to the availability of parts.

Reid Bikes: It depends on the experience of the garage. However, you would find more success at a local bike/mobility shop that deals with these products more often. Then the protocol would be the same for bike repair: they would diagnose the issue, contact the brand for any additional parts needed and quote for parts and labour to the customer. However, many e-scooters come with a warranty, so check this first.

Find out more about the current position on the regulation of e-scooters in the UK and maintenance advice from two e-scooter manufacturers here.

Daniel Herman, a partner in Stewarts’ Personal Injury department, said: “While e-scooters are being marketed as a fun, safe and environmentally-friendly mode of transport, there are legal implications that people need to know about. E-scooters can’t legally be ridden on roads, pavements or cycle lanes other than in certain designated trial areas. Not only that, if an e-scooter rider injures someone else, such as a pedestrian, they could very well be liable to compensate the injured person if the e-scooter is not covered by a policy of insurance.”

While there are urgent calls for legislation on e-scooter usage in the UK, the lack of consistency on e-scooter legislation across the globe emphasises usage is not clear-cut.

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