E-scooters: A cool or dangerous way to travel?
E-scooters are increasing in popularity but are they the best way to travel or just downright dangerous?
30 July 2021
What are e-scooters?
E-scooters or electric scooters are an alternative way to get around as opposed to cycling or walking. They’re quite new to our streets both as privately owned and available for hire in a number of cities in the UK. They seem to be quite easy to use with simple controls to get you from A to B for short journeys of around two or three miles.
What is the law for riding an e-scooter?
Firstly, to ride an e-scooter, you must have a valid provisional or full driving licence and be over the age of 16. Currently the law in England states that it’s illegal to ride privately owned e-scooters on public roads and they can only be ridden on private land with permission from the land owner. This would seem to defeat the object of buying yourself an e-scooter to get around if you can’t legally ride it. If you’re caught illegally riding a privately owned e-scooter on public roads, you may face a fine of up to £300 and six points on your driving licence.
A number of cities have now made e-scooters available to hire and it is legal to ride those in certain areas. It is however still illegal to ride them on pavements so can only be ridden on cycle lanes or the side of the road, as you would if you were cycling.
What cities have introduced e-scooter rentals?
The Government are currently trialling e-scooter hire in over 40 towns and cities in England. These include Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Milton Keynes and London.
In London, the trials are only taking place in certain boroughs with three different operators and will be restricted by ‘geo-fencing’ on-board computer systems from passing into boroughs that haven’t yet signed up. This means if you try to scoot through a borough which hasn’t signed up, the e-scooter will slowly come to a halt at the boundary line.
How do you stay safe when riding an e-scooter?
When it comes to safety whilst riding an e-scooter, the rules are similar to cycling. Helmets are recommended but not mandatory.
The speed limit for most hire trials in the country is 15.5mph whereas in London, it has been lowered to 12.5mph. In London, the lights of each scooter will remain on permanently to allow for maximum visibility at all times.
It’s important to note that if you’re hiring an e-scooter for the first time in London, whichever operator you’re using, they’ll require you to complete a mandatory online safety course before stepping on the e-scooter and embarking on your journey.
What are the dangers of e-scooters?
At a glance, an e-scooter doesn’t seem to be all that dangerous but if you add electric power, speed, lack of training / knowledge on how to ride safely, it can actually be quite a dangerous mode of transport, particularly for pedestrians who may be in the path of a speeding e-scooter where the rider can’t stop in time.
In Newcastle, the company Neuron have introduced an overnight curfew from 11pm to 5am which immobilises the e-scooters to reduce irresponsible riding and riding under the influence of alcohol.
“Legalising the use of e-scooters on public roads could reduce car use, and help tackle the associated problems of congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. However, if not regulated carefully, they could also endanger pedestrians, particularly those who are partially sighted or have other disabilities, and if people switched from walking and cycling to using an e-scooter, that would undermine the health benefits of active travel.
Whether they prove to be a benefit partly depends upon how the government decides to regulate them after the trials have concluded, including the speed and power restrictions. They need to be fast enough to attract people out of their cars, but not so fast or powerful that they undermine the health benefits of cycling, or endanger pedestrians if allowed off the road.”