Well there is a short answer and longer, debated answer to this question – so if you’re short on time and just need to know – electric scooters are legal to own, but not legal to ride on public roads and pathways. You can use them on private land – with the owners consent.
But lets be realistic, who buys one of these amazing machines to just use on private land – what a complete waste of an e-scooter! So whats the law, why does it exist, are there penalties and is anything going to change? Let us give our two wheeled motorised electric transport vehicles worth – and bare in mind a lot of this is opinion, but it is wherever possible, based on facts we’ve researched and know.
Contrary to popular belief, the law isn’t new and hasn’t changed. It has been illegal to ride an electric scooter on a public road or pathway since the 1800’s – yes you read that right, the law that prevents them from being ridden dates back to the 1800’s. There are many such laws that exist and have never been revisited or revoked – and if you think its stupid not to be able to ride your beloved electric scooter, make sure you don’t go knocking on a strangers door and walking off – it’s also illegal :
Under an 1839 law, it is illegal to knock on someone’s door and walk away. That includes ringing a doorbell without excuse.
The issue is that pre recent events, by and large, the illegality was ignored by the police, they had better things to be cracking down on and tackling than people finding more economical and environmentally friendly ways to get to work. Because of the price of the scooters, they typically aren’t being ridden by hell raising youths, and the average e-scooter rider is considerate in their use on the road.
Then the unfortunate, but sadly inevitable happened – someone lost their life whilst riding their e-scooter ( in London ) and a further couple of people have had serious life threatening injuries. The media jumped on this, and suddenly, riding an electric scooter became much more of a priority in terms of law enforcement, and even to the wider public, the view of electric scooter riders has dimmed somewhat. Where before, when riding, the general input of passers bys was one of “that looks cool” and “where can I get one?” it is now more often than not a shout of abuse of some kind. Sad times.
Now, particularly in London, the police are being pro-active in stopping e-scooter riders, issuing them with at best a warning, and at worse, a fine and confiscating the scooter. To date, we have only heard reports of this happening in Central London, not the surrounding areas, and in no other major cities or towns. That’s not to say it won’t happen, or that you can ride without concern if you don’t live in Central London, these are just the facts as we know them.
The injustice of this all is that the sad loss of life, and the injuries sustained, were not through the fact the rider was riding an electric scooter. Each incident has its own contributing factors, but none of them were the fault of the scooter – and it seems that if the exact situations occurred with the rider on a bike, the outcomes would sadly have been the same.
So what next? How can the situation change?
It seems there will be a review of the use of electric scooters, and big influential organisations such as Transport for London ( TFL ) are backing this review. It’s not a foregone conclusion that they will be made legal, but it is highly likely they will with the necessary safety legislation behind the legality. We wouldn’t also be surprised if there is some kind of tax to pay to use them on the road, making them much more akin to a car or moped style vehicle.
The remaining question then is – when? This sadly we don’t have any idea of. The World of Government policy and review is a confusing one, and the news seems to change every week as to where this is in terms of being one of the priorities. It seems that a best case scenerio would see it reviewed and passed within the next 6 months, and a worse case would be in the next 3 years.
So should I ride my electric scooter or not??
This now comes down to your appetite for risk. You could well be stopped, and you could well have your scooter confiscated. That “could” happen. It would feel really unlucky if it happened to you, but if you’re in Central London there is a risk it might happen to you.
Personally, we haven’t changed our riding habits. We are more conscientious about safety than before, and we’re probably more road aware. Always wear a helmet, always have lights on, don’t ride like an idiot – all these common sense actions can only help you and us.