We have had an increasing number of enquiries in relation to allegations of driving otherwise in accordance with a licence and using a vehicle without insurance in relation to the use of privately owned e-scooters.
Is an e-scooter a motor vehicle?
Currently there is no regulatory framework specifically for e-scooters, so they tend to fall within the legal definition of a “motor vehicle” as they have an electric motor.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 defines a motor vehicle as “any mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads”. This covers a variety of personal transport devices which are mechanically propelled:
In the case of DPP v Saddington –  EWHC Admin 409 the High Court found that a Go-Ped, which is a scooter powered by an internal combustion engine, was a motor vehicle in the statutory framework. The rider in this case was therefore required by law to have a driving licence and third-party insurance when using one on the road.
In the case of Winter v DPP –  EWHC 1524 (Admin) the High Court considered the use of a ‘City Bug’ electric scooter, and whether its user was bound by the compulsory insurance requirements. It found that it was, and that the appellant had been properly convicted of the offence of driving a vehicle without insurance.
Further to this the High Court considered in Coates v Crown Prosecution Service –  EWHC 2032 (Admin) the situation of Segways in the statutory framework. It found that the appellant had been properly convicted under the Highway Act 1835 of “riding” on the footway, or of “driving or leading a carriage” on the footway. The Segway was a carriage either by analogy to other forms of carriage (like bicycles) or because it was a motor vehicle, which by operation of statute is a carriage. Coates held that the only criteria that the court consider is whether the mode of transport has been adapted for use on the road.
EAPCs and mobility scooters are different and are governed by their own statutory framework.
Electric Bikes are pedal cycles that can be propelled by both pedals and an electric motor, and have their own specific law – Read About Electric Bikes Here.
Similarly, mobility scooters have their own legislation designed to allow the use of electric vehicles specifically designed to transport sick and disabled persons, and so are also not classed as ‘motor vehicles’ under the Road Traffic Act.
But an e-scooter is adapted for road use and therefore to be used on a road or a public place lawfully the vehicle must meet several different requirements. These include having the correct licence and insurance; payment of vehicle tax and adhering to the same safety criteria as any other motor vehicle such as fully functioning brakes, lights, indicators, and correct and safe tyres.
Can I use an e-scooter if I meet these requirements?
Yes – if you can meet all of the requirements that apply to motor vehicles. However, users may find some difficulties in meeting various (and complicated) safety and registration requirements, as well as insuring them.
Additionally if you do not ride an e-scooter safely you can be charged with the same offences as you would be if driving a car or riding a motorbike such as dangerous driving, driving without due care and attention, driving whilst using a mobile telephone and drink or drug driving.
Can I use an e-scooter on the pavement?
No. It is an offence to use an e-scooter on the pavement under section 72, Highway Act 1835. This rule applies to almost all vehicles, with special legal exceptions for mobility scooters and wheelchairs.
In addition, e-scooters are forbidden from using footpaths. A footpath is a public right of way over land which may only be used on foot (as opposed to a bridleway or a carriageway). Mechanically propelled vehicles are forbidden from using footpaths by section 34 Road Traffic Act 1988.
What about in a cycle Lane?
No. E-scooters are prohibited from using cycle tracks, cycle lanes on roads, or other spaces dedicated to pedal cycle use only (s.21(1), Road Traffic Act 1988). EAPCs and mobility scooters are exempt from this ban.
In addition, powered transporters cannot be used on bridleways or restricted byways (s.34, Road Traffic Act 1988).
What about private Land?
Yes. However, for this purpose the Road Traffic Act 1988 states private land can only be private if it is not accessible to the public. Spaces which might be thought of a private such as car parks, public squares, privately-owned roads, industrial estates, and university campuses are not always classed as private land as the general public have access to them.
Whether land is public or not is a complicated legal issue, and every case is considered on a case-by-case basis.
The Government are currently running a scheme where you are allowed to ride a rented e-scooter. At the conclusion of this scheme the government are proposing to amend the legislation, so e-scooters have a specific regulatory framework.
The Trial guidance states how to travel safely, licensing guidance and the rules of the road as part of the Trial only and is not applicable to privately owned scooters but gives an indication as to the likely framework when it is introduced.
The specifications for e-scooters within this Trial under The Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations and General Directions 2020 are as follows:-
An “electric scooter” means a vehicle which
- is fitted with an electric motor with a maximum continuous power rating not exceeding 500 watts.
- is not fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling the vehicle.
- has two wheels, one front and one rear, aligned along the direction of travel.
- is designed to carry no more than one person.
- has a maximum weight, excluding the driver, not exceeding 55 kgs;
- has a maximum design speed not exceeding 15.5 miles per hour;
- has a means of directional control through the use of handlebars which are mechanically linked to the steered wheel;
- has a means of controlling the speed through hand controls; and
- has a power control that defaults to the ‘off’ position
The Trial guidance states that the maximum speed for an e-scooter is 15.5mph. Trial e-scooters are limited to this speed and in some areas e-scooters may be limited to a lower maximum speed.
You must have the category Q entitlement on your driving licence to use an e-scooter. A full or provisional UK licence for categories AM, A or B includes entitlement for category Q. If you have one of these licences, you can use an e-scooter.
If you have a provisional licence, you do not need to show L plates when using an e-scooter.
If you have an overseas driving licence, you can use an e-scooter if you:
- have a valid full licence from an EU or European Economic Area (EEA) country (so long as this does not prohibit you from driving low-speed mopeds and motorcycles)
- have a valid full licence from another country that entitles you to drive a small vehicle (for example, cars, mopeds, or motorcycles) and you entered the UK within the last 12 months.
You cannot use an e-scooter if you have an overseas provisional licence, learner permit or equivalent.
E-scooters must have motor insurance, but you do not need to arrange this as this will be provided by your e-scooter rental operator.
Helmets and clothing
You should wear a cycle helmet when using an e-scooter. Helmets are recommended but are not a legal requirement.
Make sure that your cycle helmet conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and is securely fastened.
Wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing so that other road users can see you in daylight, poor light and in the dark.
Where you can use a trial e-scooter
You may use a trial e-scooter on the road (except motorways) and in cycle lanes.
You must not use an e-scooter on the pavement.
Traffic signs with the following cycle symbol apply to e-scooters (unless a sign is displayed prohibiting e-scooters from that particular cycle way):
Registration plates and vehicle excise duty
E-scooters do not need to be registered, display registration plates, or pay vehicle excise duty
Other safety rules for trial e-scooter users:
- e-scooters should only be used within the local area hosting the trial.
- e-scooters should be used by one person at a time.
- you must not tow anything using an e-scooter.
- you must not use a mobile phone when using an e-scooter.
- you may use a screen to display navigation information, but this must be set up prior to setting off.
- always ensure bags or other small items you are carrying will not cause a danger to you or others around you – for example, never hang them from the handlebars.
- you should not ride an e-scooter while drunk or otherwise intoxicated – you may be prosecuted under drink or drug driving laws as careless and dangerous driving offences also apply to users of e-scooters.