The popularity of electric scooters has been growing thanks to the rising cost of fuel and increasing awareness of the climate crisis. More and more commuters are choosing this green alternative to traditional transport to get to where they need to go.
E-scooters produce zero carbon emissions, unlike cars, motorbikes, and public transport, and they’re less physically intensive than cycling and walking. They’re also affordable, which appeals to younger commuters.
Whilst electric scooters are legal in all other major European countries, there is still some confusion around whether e-scooters are legal in the UK. Here’s everything you need to know about electric scooter legislation in the UK, the rules you need to abide by, and how the laws are changing.
Are e-scooters legal in the UK?
As with any new technology, adoption has outpaced electric scooter legislation though and the legality of e-scooters as transport is a bit of a grey area. So, yes, it’s perfectly legal to buy and own an E-scooter in the UK. And it’s legal to use an e-scooter on your own private property or private land with the permission of the land owner.
But, while you may see electric scooters zipping by all the time, there are some restrictions to their use in public places…
While changes to the law are expected in the new Transport Bill, it is currently illegal to ride a privately owned e-scooter on public roads, pavements, footpaths, cycle lanes, or pedestrian-only zones. [Unless they are rented as part of a government-approved trial scheme – more on that later.]
Electric scooters are classed as ‘powered transporters’, which means they fall under the same rules and regulations that govern the use of cars and other motor vehicles – hence why pavements and cycle paths are off limits.
Do you need insurance for an electric scooter?
Because e-scooters are considered ‘powered transporters’, privately owned scooters have to meet the same requirements as motor vehicles to use them on public roads, which means insurance, licence, and tax, as well as indicators and rear lights.
An electric scooter could technically be used in public if you could register it, insure it, and tax it like any other motor vehicle. This isn’t currently possible though.
Eleanor Chappell, the Head of E-scooter Policy and Micromobility at UK Department for Transport (DfT), has said:
"For private machines, unless they meet the requirements for motor vehicles – so you've got a motorcycle helmet on, you've got insurance, which is hard to get, and they meet the motor vehicle requirements – it is still illegal to use an e-scooter on public roads, and the police will continue to enforce it that way."
Let’s talk about the exception to these rules: the government’s e-scooter trials…
Current electric scooter legislation in the UK
You might be wondering, are e-scooters legal in the UK because you've seen so many on the roads. This is because the one exception to the current electric scooter laws is the government-backed rental trial scheme being carried out in 31 cities around the UK (England only – there are no trials running in Scotland or Wales).
Since 2020, the DfT has been working with rental providers to test the viability of e-scooters as a safe, effective, and sustainable mode of transport. Only scooters that are part of the trials are legally allowed on public roads (not dual carriageways or motorways), and there are still rules and restrictions in place:
- A motor vehicle insurance policy is required, but the rental operators are responsible for covering the insurance.
- E-scooter users need to have a valid driving licence with a category Q entitlement (found on licences for categories AM, A, or B).
- Rental scooters are limited to a maximum of 15.5mph, with lower limits applied in some areas (their speed is automatically restricted).
- The scooters are geofenced to stop them leaving certain areas.
- You aren’t allowed to carry a passenger on an e-scooter.
- It isn’t compulsory (i.e., legally required) to wear a helmet, but it is strongly recommended and encouraged.
Currently, privately owned e-scooters are not covered by the trials and public use is not allowed, pending future electric scooter legislation changes.
The purpose of the e-scooter rental trial schemes
Before the government can legalise the use of electric scooters, they have to establish how safe they are, how they can integrate into the existing transport system, and how they should be designed and operated.
The trials (which have now been extended until the end of May 2024- see our latest update below) are paving the way for electric scooters to be legalised in the new Transport Bill. That’s why the pilot scheme is being closely monitored.
A government spokeswoman says: “Safety will always be our top priority and our trials are helping us to better understand the benefits of properly regulated, safety-tested e-scooters and their impact on public space. While riding a privately-owned e-scooter on public land is currently illegal, we are considering how best to design future regulations and our Transport Bill will help us to take the steps we need to make e-scooters safer and support innovation.”
New electric scooter legislation
The government is set to introduce legislation to fully legalise the use of electric scooters as part of a new Transport Bill announced in the Queen’s speech in May 2022. Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, indicated that privately-owned e-scooters may soon be made legal on public roads. As is the case in all other major European countries currently.
The new legislation could see the creation of a new vehicle category for 'low-speed zero-emission vehicles', known as powered micro vehicles. This could include electric scooters, light electric cargo vehicles, and electric light mopeds.
The government has not yet outlined the specific rules that will apply, but has indicated that safety will be at the heart of the new regulations. The new Transport Bill will have to pass through Parliament before the new rules apply, which could happen sometime in 2023.
The new rules are likely to be based on the rules applied in the rental trial schemes, including a speed limit, weight caps, a minimum wheel size, fitted brakes, lights and indicators. And pavements would still be off-limits to e-scooters. Our Nought scooters have been developed with all these points in mind so you’ll be ready to ride.
Proposed safety regulations
The University of Warwick, with support from Cenex, has published a report with key recommendations and a proposed roadmap for powered micro vehicle adoption in the UK.
The report, Micromobility: a UK Roadmap, acknowledges that powered micromobility vehicles, such as e-scooters, “offer a huge opportunity to decarbonise transport, reduce congestion, improve air quality, and reduce car-dependence.”
The report’s key recommendations are:
- Specific standards and regulations for each vehicle type, including speed limits and weight limits.
- Vehicles must be registered and be visually identifiable.
- Cardinal design requirements around minimum wheel size and redundancy of braking systems, so there is a secondary method of slowing the vehicle down.
- Daytime running lights and indicators are required to improve visibility for current road users.
- No use on the pavement but instead on roads and cycle-ways.
- Minimum ages for operating the vehicles, and PPE recommendations.
- New powers for local policing and PCSOs in England and Wales, to fine breaches and illegal use.
Many private electric scooters meet some or all of these regulations (including our Nought.one scooter launching soon), but there are still the complications with registration, licensing, tax, and insurance.
Are electric scooters safe?
E-Scooters are totally safe – you just have to do your research and buy from a reliable brand that provides essential safety features, a good warranty, and maintenance or repairs (visit our page here to find out more about how we’ve got you covered here at Nought).
In fact, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has found that ‘E-scooters are safer than many other travel modes, with significantly lower casualty rates (0.66 collisions per million miles travelled) compared to bicycles which were 5 times more likely to be involved in a collision (3.33 per million miles) and motorbikes which were 9 times more likely to be involved in a collision (5.88 per million miles).’
Let’s take a look at the features you need to consider when buying your E-Scooter…
To stay safe while riding at night, it’s essential that your scooter comes equipped with front and rear lights for good visibility. The Nought.one, for example, comes fitted with a full-beam headlight, brake lights, and left and right indicator lights.
Pneumatic (air-filled) tyres provide a better quality ride than solid tyres thanks to their cushioning, stability, and traction. They come in two forms: tubed or tubeless. As with any tyres, keep an eye out for signs of wear and tear so you know when it’s time to replace your tyres.
Not all electric scooters are waterproof – you’ll need to check its Ingress Protection (IP) rating (a two-digit number that indicates its resistance to moisture). For protection against rain, you’ll need a good water resistance rating. For example, the Nought.one’s IP65 rating provides protection against low-pressure water jets from all directions, as well as condensation and water spray.
Electric scooters typically come with electric, disc or drum, or foot brakes. Check for front and rear brakes (a requirement in the UK) and that they’ve been tested in wet conditions. Disc or drum brakes are your best bet, but they do eventually wear out and will need to be replaced.
Taking your hands off the handlebars to signal a turn can be dangerous so it’s advisable you invest in an electric scooter with built-in indicators. The Nought.one comes fitted with left and right indicator lights. Indicators mean you never have to compromise your balance or safety for hand signals.
As with any vehicle, regular maintenance is key to extending the life of your scooter. Look for a brand that provides servicing or a maintenance plan, as well as accessories and parts. Read more about our dedicated UK-based warehouse for all your Nought repairs here.
For most brands, the warranty period is limited to 12 months. E-Scooters are prone to wear and tear from daily use, so it’s always better to invest in a brand with a two-year warranty for peace of mind.
Finally, there are some measures you can take to ensure your own safety:
- Wear a helmet when riding.
- Wear reflective clothing to make it easier for other drivers to see you when it’s dark.
- Observe the rules of the road and pay full attention to the path ahead.
- Keep an eye out for pedestrians, cars, and other obstacles (such as potholes).
Are e-scooters legal in the UK: December 2022 electric scooter legislation update
The UK’s two-year-old rental e-scooter trials recently came to an end on the 30th November 2022, after around 30 million journeys on 24,000 shared e-scooters, according to Zag Daily’s latest data research. So, what’s the road ahead for the legality of e-scooters in the UK now?
The shared e-scooter trails began back in summer 2020 when the UK government made changes to regulation allow for the fast-tracking of rental e-scooter trials. The trials were originally scheduled to run until November 2021 but were extended, first to March 2022, and then again to 30th November 2022.
Local authorities can now decide whether they want to withdraw from the scheme or continue again with the trials until the latest extension of May 2024.
Many UK cities have already announced that they will continue with the trials, including London, Bath, Birmingham, Cambridge, York, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Bristol, which has the most e-scooters of any UK city. It is expected that many other cities, including Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Milton Keynes, will follow. Some areas, such as Kent and Canterbury, have opted not to continue.
The aim of the new extension is to give the government enough time to understand the safety and benefits of the legality of e-scooters in the UK, including how they can integrate into the existing transport system and how they should be designed and operated.
Outside of these shared trials, are e-scooters legal in the UK? Unfortunately, it is still illegal to ride e-scooters on public roads in the UK. However, the government has instigated plans for electric scooter legislation to introduce a new low-speed, low-emission vehicle category, paving the way for the legalisation of privately-owned electric scooters. Whilst the exact date for when e-scooters will be legalised in the UK hasn’t been confirmed, it is possible that the new legislation could be implemented by summer 2023.
Chief executive of shared mobility charity CoMoUK (Collaborative Mobility UK), Richard Dilks, said: “This is a momentous milestone for the shared e-scooter trials in England to have reached, showing sustained levels of popularity for this new alternative transport option.
“With the Minister recently confirming the Government’s intention to create a new powered light vehicle class that would legalise e-scooters, we want to see that happen as soon as possible to harness this popularity, along with the benefits it brings, while dealing with the lack of regulation of private e-scooters.
“The UK is an outlier in having no committed plan to legalise e-scooters or other future low emission modes that will help us save people money and cut emissions.”
Why micromobility matters
According to INRIX, in the UK's capital and most congested city, the average commuter sat idle for 149 hours per year due to congestion. In London alone, the total damage to the economy exceeded £4.9bn.
Micromobility is a key step in reducing the UK’s congestion, carbon emissions and reaching net-zero status. As Robert Evans, CEO at Cenex, says:
“In order to lower emissions from transport, it is crucial we find a way forward that allows the UK micromobility market to grow sustainably and safely for all. The growth in e-bike use and the popularity of e-scooter trials have demonstrated that electric-powered micro vehicles will have a significant role in our future transport systems.”
During their analysis of more than 30 million anonymous car trips in the UK, INRIX Research found that 67% of all car trips in the most congested U.K. urban areas are less than just three miles. They state that 'given scooters are frequently used for trips between a half-mile and a mile, whereas bike distances are typically between one mile and three miles, if a fraction of short vehicle trips were replaced with scooter and bike trips, cities could reap significant benefits.’
Micro vehicles like electric scooters can help to lower greenhouse gas emissions from transport and transform the way we travel. Fewer cars on the road means less congestion and air pollution. Imagine replacing every short car trip with a scooter ride across town. Read more about why micro mobility matters in our journal here.
Here at Nought, we’re in full support of the changes to the legislation: as a zero-emissions ride for sustainable urban journeys, we believe every mile can be eco-friendly. So, watch this space when the new electric scooter legislation passes!