Take a trip to Europe and you'll almost certainly encounter legions of electric scooters – or e-scooters – and now the battery-powered two-wheelers are making their way to the UK. The government is now conducting trials in northern England and has today published guidance for users, including spelling out some new rules for riders.
First, the new rules reiterate that anyone riding an electric scooter (which falls into the government's classification of 'powered transporters') will have to have a driving licence – specifically one that lets you drive a category Q vehicle. This can be a UK licence or a foreign equivalent of a full UK licence. If you're caught speeding, it could be endorsed with points.
Unlike cars and motorcycles, electric scooters operated by someone with a provisional driving licence won't have to display L plates. But whatever type of licence you have, you'll have to stick to roads (except motorways) and cycle lanes rather than the pavement.
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In setting out the new guidance, the government stresses that the use of privately owned e-scooters remains illegal, except on private land. if you want to zip down the road on a small-wheeled vehicle, it will have to be on one that comes from a specialist company. Part of the reason for this is that e-scooters must be insured, and this is something that must be arrange by the rental company.
If you were hoping to go flying down the road at a great rate of knots, you'll be disappointed to learn of the speed limit. No e-scooter will be permitted to travel at more than 15.5 miles per hour (around 24 km/h), but there is also the possibility of lower limits in some locations. Nor can you try to tow anything behind a scooter (not that the motor would be powerful enough anyway).
Despite being permitted to reach this fairly nippy speed, scooter riders will not be required to wear helmets, but are encouraged to do so.
Two wheels good
The guidance also sets out a number of other restrictions including stating that during the trial period, e-scooters may not be used anywhere other than the trial areas – this includes Darlington Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.
Additionally, riders are not allowed to use mobiles while driving, only one person may use an e-scooter at a time, and drink-scooting is, unsurprisingly, illegal.
The UK government has come in for criticism for taking so long to look into e-scooters. Tom McPhail from e-scooter firm Pure Electric welcomed the publishing of guidance, saying it would have to reduce car usage. "It's good the government is pressing ahead with steps to legalise scooter use. However, they need to move faster; a year is far too long a time to take over this".
Pure Electric also has a few suggestions for further e-scooter legislation including a requirement for scooters to have a bell or other audio alert system, and brake tests. The company would also like to see standards developed covering indicators and the size of wheels.
- Check out our guide to the best cheap electric scooters
Via Pure Electric