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Legalise e-scooters on roads, but retain pavement ban, says Transport Committee

Mark Moran
05 October 2020
The committee calls for robust enforcement measures to eliminate pavement use of e-scooters (Unsplash)
The committee calls for robust enforcement measures to eliminate pavement use of e-scooters (Unsplash)
 

E-scooters should be legalised on roads but riding on pavements should be prohibited, the House of Commons’ Transport Committee has said.  Privately-owned e-scooters are banned to use in the UK anywhere except on private land.

In a new report, the committee has said the vehicles, which usually travel 9-15mph, could offer a green alternative to the car.

Whilst supporting the introduction and use of e-scooters, the committee advises that current rental trials and any plans for legalisation should not be to the detriment of pedestrians, particularly disabled people.  

The committee calls for robust enforcement measures to eliminate pavement use of e-scooters, which the report says is dangerous and anti-social. If the government supports the committee’s recommendation and decides to legalise privately owned e-scooters, the law should clearly prohibit their use on pavements and ensure that such enforcement measures are effective in eliminating this behaviour.

The Transport Committee further caveats its report by calling for a sensible and proportionate regulatory framework for the legal use of electric scooters, based firmly on evidence gained from current rental trials and from other countries. The current rental trials should allow important evidence and data to determine the best way to legally incorporate both rental and privately owned e-scooters within the UK’s transport mix.

The Department for Transport must also encourage the use of e-scooters to replace short car journeys rather than walking and cycling. The Committee warns that it would be counter-productive if an uptake in e-scooters, whether rental or private, primarily replaced more active and healthy forms of travel and calls for the Department to continue promoting active travel as a key policy.

To ensure that any regulations governing e-scooters are effective in providing a safe environment for both riders and other road users, the committee makes the following recommendations to government:

  • If the government legalises e-scooters, users should not be required to have a driving licence for either rental or private use.
  • The Department for Transport (DfT) should monitor the number and types of collisions during the trials to determine future insurance requirements for rental and privately owned e-scooters.
  • Local authorities should determine the speed of e-scooters in their areas as a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work.
  • The DfT should use the data from the trials to determine which e-scooter design requirements are appropriate for UK roads.
  • Helmet use should be encouraged for rental and privately owned e-scooters.
  • The DfT along with local authorities should monitor the trials for problems emerging with abandoned e-scooters leading to ‘street clutter’.

The MPs acknowledge that there are valid environmental concerns relating to the lifetime of the scooters and the processes used to recharge their batteries. DfT should closely monitor the environmental impact of e-scooters and if needed, consider introducing stricter requirements around sustainability.

Huw Merriman MP, chair of the Transport Committee, said: “The UK remains the last major European economy where e-scooters are still banned to use anywhere except on private land and their use on UK roads is currently illegal. That is still a matter of surprise to many, as we see the numbers grow on our streets alongside the department’s permitted rental trials.

“E-scooters have the potential to become an exciting and ingenious way to navigate our streets and get from place to place. If this gets people out of the car, reducing congestion and exercising in the open air, then even better. We support the government’s desire to include e-scooters in the UK’s transport mix and the current rental trials will provide a crucial evidence base for future legislation. In order to learn how e-scooters impact on safety, the environment and people’s journey choices, the trials need to be accessible to a wide range of people and take place in a variety of different settings. We understand why driving licences were required for the trials, but it is a shame that key audiences were excluded at this stage.

“Most importantly, we heard first-hand about the impact of e-scooters on pavements. We need to ensure that their arrival on our streets doesn’t make life more difficult for pedestrians, and especially disabled people. Before proceeding with plans to legalise the use of e-scooters, local authorities and government must use the trials to monitor this closely, put enforcement measures in place and ensure they are effective in eliminating this behaviour.”

 
 
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