E-Scooters to be legalised for private use on public roads
On 10 May 2022, in the Queens speech, Prince Charles announced the introduction of the Transport Bill, which includes the legalisation of private e-scooters on public roads. The present legal position is that e-scooters can be used only in endorsed trials or on private land. It is currently illegal to ride a private e-scooter on a public road.
This follows the comments made by Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary’s, confirmation to the Transport Committee on 27 April 2022 that legislation would be announced. It is expected to be put before parliament in 2022-2023 session.
There is very little detail at this stage as to what the legislation will look like and how the private use will be regulated. Mr Shapps had said in April to the Transport Committee that the desire to legalise was to “crack down on the private market and make it illegal to sell e-scooters which don’t meet the regulatory standards.” He had also noted that “The Government would then be able to stipulate that all e-scooters sold met certain standards concerning speed, power and lights, among other things.” This ties in with the Governments drive for innovation and more public choice in transport options.
This may come as a surprise to some given the strong opposition to e-scooters and the increase in accidents in recent years whilst the national trials have been taking place. It was only at the start of May 2022 that the National Federation of the Blind UK delivered a petition to Downing Street to call for the non-legalisation of e-scooters and calling for protection for vulnerable road users in the face of rising accident numbers. The BBC reported that the Emergency Services attended 713 e-scooter accidents in 2021 compared with 392 in 2020. According to government figures, there were 931 casualties and three fatalities involving e-scooters in the year to June 2021.
In terms of what we can expect, then it is very likely there will be speed restrictions and I suspect requirements similar to the trials of e-scooters, such as the depth of the wheels and the need for lights for e-scooters. It is therefore likely that many of the private e-scooters that are presently owned or available for sale for use on private land do not meet such new requirements for road use and therefore any keen riders might want to put off shiny new purchases until the requirements are announced. It is also very likely that there will be a requirement to be over 18 years old and have a minimum provisional driving licence, as is the case with e-scooters in the trials.
We are now definitely waving goodbye to the roads as we used to know them, and our future transport landscape is definitely one with e-scooters. Perhaps privately owned e-scooters are unlikely to be abandoned in the middle of the pavement where pedestrians trip up over them and better care may be taken by riders to avoid damaging their e-scooters.
There is yet no word on the insurance position and whether it will be mandatory, whether they will have number plates or licence numbers etc. We can expect further detail in coming months. There is certainly a lot to be worked out before we will have any real feel for the legal landscape of e-scooters.
Gemma Witherington, Barrister.