Is it illegal to use an e-scooter

It is illegal to use a powered transporter (e-scooter)?

E-Scooter Your Way to a Penalty

“E-Scooters” seem to be the new gadget of choice recently with Halfords recently claiming that sales had increased by 450%. This is of little surprise given that the pandemic has forced and encouraged people to consider other modes of transportation, particularly in large cities such as London. I regularly see users of all ages whizzing around public roads and pathways.

Unfortunately, e-scooter users do not realise that using these vehicles (or any other “powered vehicle) on public roads or in public places is illegal. “Powered transporters” is a term used to cover a variety of newly-emerging modes of transportation and include most devices which are powered by a motor, including e-scooters.

The mechanisms of an e-scooter ultimately mean that they are given the legal definition of a “motor vehicle” so the laws that apply to motor vehicles such as cars, also apply to e-scooters and other powered transports.

It is illegal to use a powered transporter:

  • on a public road without complying with a number of legal requirements, which potential users will find very difficult
  • in spaces that are set aside for use by pedestrians, cyclists, and horse-riders; this includes on the pavement and in the cycle lane

It is legal to use a powered transporter on private land with the permission of the landowner however what is classed as private property is not as straight forward as you may think. As a general rule, if other members of the public could gain access to the area, then legally, it probably wouldn’t be classed as private land for the purposes of this legislation.

What might have looked like an attractive alternative to public transport,  has now become pretty much illegal to use anywhere except private property. If you own one of these scooters and have used it even on the pavement outside of your own house then you have still committed an offence under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 which makes it illegal to drive or ride a vehicle on the pavement.

The only way (at present) you can use an e-scooter on a public road would be if they confirmed with a number of different requirements relating to insurance, vehicle tax, conformity with technical standards and those of use, licensing and registration; and the use of relevant safety equipment. If you can meet all of these requirements then, in principle, it may be lawful for them to use public roads. However, it is likely that they will find it very difficult to comply with all of these requirements, meaning that it would be a criminal offence to use them on the road.

But Why Are Electric Bikes OK but My Scooter Isn’t?

Bicycles are covered by different rules to those that apply to self-balancing scooters. Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles must meet requirements of the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations 1983. Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPC) that conform to the regulations are considered to be pedal cycles and are therefore allowed to use cycle facilities such as cycle lanes and any cycle tracks away from the road which other powered vehicles are prohibited from using. Similar exemptions exist for mobility scooters.

Current Cases?

There is no new law that governs e-scooters. Their place within our transport system is covered under existing laws and at present, there have been no cases which considered the specific use of an e-scooter and how it fits into the current framework. There have been cases however that considered other powered vehicles.

DPP v Saddington found a “Go-ped” to be a motor vehicle and so the user needed a licence and insurance to use it on a public road. Winter v DPP involved a “City Bug” electric scooter and the court ruled that it was bound by the usual insurance requirements for motor vehicles. Finally, in Coates v CPS considered the use of a Segway on a footway and ultimately determined it was a breach of the law given the statutory framework.

Given the rise in popularity of the e-scooter, it seems only a matter of time before legal challenges land at the court’s feet.

Boris Johnson is said to be considering an e-scooter rental scheme and a relaxation of the framework that currently governs these vehicles. In the meantime, however, what you initially considered a good investment may ultimately land you in more hot water than it’s worth.

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