What drivers need to know about e-scooters

E-scooters are a relatively new addition to the roads of Great Britain, giving drivers something else to have to think about as they try to get from A to B without incident.

Some critics have dubbed inconsiderate e-scooter riders as “a menace on our roads and pavements” – and while they’re might be a debate to be had about the extent of their use and how to prevent young people from using them – it’s likely that this new mode of transport is set to stay.

As a driver, this means you should educate yourself on e-scooters, so that you understand the legalities and navigate around them knowingly.

With that in mind, we thought it would be handy to create an article on everything drivers need to know about e-scooters – from who can use them to if they are as dangerous as the headline stats might suggest.

If you find yourself in a collision with an e-scooter, your vehicle could be impounded by police. You’ll need locked compound car insurance to get it released, which is where we come in.

What is an e-scooter and why have they grown in popularity?

If you’ve driven in a city recently, it’s likely you’ve spotted some e-scooters zipping around. Electric scooters, which are powered by a small on-board electric motor, have been around for decades, but only relatively recently have they taken to the roads.

Their portability means they’re often more convenient to use than a bike – not to mention a lot less effort – which has helped fuel the e-mobility revolution.

E-scooter riders can quickly and effortlessly get to where they need to be, in next to no time, with the ability to nimbly weave in and out of city traffic. They’re a fun way to get around and the flexibility of the trial schemes often mean that riders don’t have to worry about returning their e-scooter back to where they picked it up.

E-scooters really took off when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, when people were more mindful of doing their bit for the environment and also mixing with other commuters so were avoiding busy trains and buses.

Being powered by electricity means e-scooters are undoubtedly an eco-friendly alternative to travelling by car, not to mention much cheaper to run. 

However, the initial cost of owning an e-scooter can still be high, with some of the top-of-the-range models likely to take you far beyond the £1,000 mark. You can pick up an e-scooter for as little as £250, however you can expect to have to charge them more often, and they often prove less durable than more expensive units, reports consumer magazine Which?.

Is it legal to ride e-scooters on the road?

Before you fork out for an e-scooter, however, it’s crucial to note that you won’t be able to use it on public roads. Although they are legally recognised as "powered transporters" – meaning they fall under the same laws and regulations as motor vehicles – because they rarely have visible rear red lights, number plates or signalling ability, they can't be used on roads.

If you’re the owner of an e-scooter, you’ll only be able to ride it on private land, with the permission of the landowner. If you use an e-scooter on a UK public road, cycle lane or pavement, you’re technically committing an offence.

If caught riding your e-scooter illegally, you face a fine of up to £300 and six penalty points on your licence. Police also have the power to take the e-scooter from you.

The reason why you’re now seeing so many e-scooters on the roads is because new rules were introduced in 2020 to allow rental e-scooters in certain cities and towns.

In areas where government-backed trials are taking place, people can freely hop on one of the rental e-scooters available, provided they meet the riding conditions, without fear of being prosecuted.

E-scooter sharing schemes are taking place in the following urban areas (as of June 2022):
  • Bournemouth and Poole
  • Buckinghamshire (Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Princes Risborough)
  • Cambridge
  • Cheshire West and Chester (Chester)
  • Copeland (Whitehaven)
  • Derby
  • Essex (Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester)
  • Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and Gloucester)
  • Great Yarmouth
  • Kent (Canterbury)
  • Liverpool
  • London (participating boroughs)
  • Milton Keynes
  • Newcastle
  • North and West Northamptonshire (Northampton, Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough)
  • North Devon (Barnstaple)
  • North Lincolnshire (Scunthorpe)
  • Norwich
  • Nottingham
  • Oxfordshire (Oxford)
  • Redditch
  • Salford
  • Slough
  • Solent (Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton)
  • Somerset West (Taunton and Minehead)
  • South Somerset (Yeovil)
  • Sunderland
  • Tees Valley (Hartlepool and Middlesbrough)
  • West Midlands (Birmingham, Coventry and Sandwell)
  • West of England Combined Authority (Bristol and Bath)
  • York

The aim of the trials is to see whether or not e-scooters could help ease the burden on the transport network, with a form of transport which is green and cost effective.

A man on an E-scooter riding on a city road

How successful have the e-scooter trials been?

You only need to pay a visit to one of the areas listed above to see just how popular the e-scooter trials have proved to be.

In London alone, more than half a million trips have been made (as of Feb 2022), covering a total of 1.6 million kilometres, Transport for London reports with around 180,000 Londoners using the scheme.

The popularity of the London trial has prompted TfL to increase the number of e-scooters available to hire by six fold to 3,585 vehicles, and the number of boroughs participating in the scheme has doubled. Further expansion of the trial is expected in the coming months.

Commenting on the success of the trial, Councillor Adam Harrison, Cabinet member for a sustainable Camden, said: "The pandemic changed how communities in Camden live, travel and work.

"We want our streets to have more space for everyone to walk and cycle, for you to be breathing cleaner air, for children to get to and from school safely and for businesses to be able to flourish.”

It’s a similar story throughout the UK, with hire schemes being extended, and there is talk of councils adopting the scooters on a permanent basis.

Will private e-scooters ever be allowed on roads?

It’s hard to say whether the law will be relaxed or changed to allow privately-owned e-scooters to join rented scooters on UK roads. But there have been calls from many MPs and transport groups for exactly that.

In a report by the House of Commons Transport Committee, published in October 2020, it was put forward that the UK is “the last major European economy where e-scooters are still banned to be used anywhere except on private land”.

The report urged the government to “take swift action to legalise the use of privately owned electric scooters on roads and cycle lanes” and said it expected this to happen “within the next 18 months”.

However, almost two years on, there’s been little in the way of progress on legalising private e-scooters. 
But, it’s been suggested that the government wants to hold off on any decision about whether to make it legal to use them on the road until the trials have come to an end and all “data gaps” have been filled in.

There’s optimism that eventually e-scooters will be classified in the same way as electric bicycles i.e., legal to use on public roads and cycle lanes and with no requirement for registration or insurance, but limited to a speed of 15.5mph.

The argument in favour of e-scooters is a strong one, as the House of Commons Transport Committee points out.

It says allowing wider use of e-scooters would:

·         Enable people from poorer backgrounds to get around without having to pay for the cost of getting a driving licence.
·         Often result in faster journey times than cars.
·         Allow them to be used for deliveries in place of mopeds.

Clearly, there are also benefits for the environment to factor in, with the London Cycle Campaign (LCC) putting forward the case that e-scooters offer a "cleaner, low carbon alternative" for those who can't or don't want to cycle.

Time will tell, so watch this space.

Do you need a driving licence to ride an e-scooter?

To ride a hired e-scooter on UK roads, you need the category Q entitlement on your driving licence. Both full and provisional UK driving licences with categories AM, A or B include category Q permissions.

If you have a provisional licence, you do need L plates – where would you even put them anyway?

You can ride an e-scooter on an overseas driving licence, too, provided you have a valid full licence from an EU or European Economic Area (EEA) country.

You can’t ride an e-scooter if you’ve got an overseas provisional licence or learner permit.

How far and fast can e-scooters go?

All hired e-scooters will have the same top speed and range. The UK government has capped the speed limit for rental electric scooters at 15.5mph (25km/h), which is the average speed of most electric scooters that you can buy ‘off the shelf’.

There are e-scooters available on the market which exceed 15.5mph. But if you’re buying one with a potential rule change in mind – so you can use it on public roads – why would you invest in one that might not be legal in the future?

In terms of range, again it varies. It depends on the make and model of the scooter – they can range from five miles, on a full charge, all the way up to 40 miles. So, on some e-scooters, you’d be able to go all the way from Surrey to Brighton! If it wasn’t for the rules stopping you, of course.

Two people riding e-scooters

What are the safety rules for using an e-scooter?

There aren’t too many safety rules relating to riding an e-scooter. You don’t even need to wear a helmet, although it is highly recommended.

However, there are a number of safety rules, set out in the government’s guidance for e-scooter users:
  • E-scooters must remain within the local area hosting the trial.
  • E-scooters should only be ridden by one person at a time.
  • You’re not allowed to tow anything using an e-scooter.
  • You must not use a mobile device when riding an e-scooter.
  • If you want to use a mobile device for guidance purposes, this must be set up prior to setting off.
  • Don’t hang any bags (or other items) from the handlebars as this could hinder your control of the scooter.
  • You should not travel on an e-scooter while drunk or otherwise intoxicated.

Users are also encouraged to read the terms of use of the e-scooter operator before hiring a trial e-scooter, ensuring they adhere to any conditions outlined.

Woman prosecuted for drink-driving while using an e-scooter

Although rules for using an e-scooter are fairly light touch, there have been incidents where riders have been prosecuted for failing to follow the guidelines. 

In Newport on the Isle of Wight, Kyah Jordan, 20, was found to be almost three times over the limit when she went through a red light and almost crashed into an unmarked police car, a court heard.

After being found guilty of drink-driving, she was banned from the roads altogether for two years and given a community order.

In their ruling, magistrates said the e-scooter was classed as a "motor vehicle, the same as a moped, the same as a bus".

If you have an accident with an e-scooter and your car is impounded you’ll need locked compound car insurance to get it back. Give the Insurance Factory a call for a quote.

Safety tips for riders

At the end of the day, it’s within the interests of e-scooter riders to ensure they are taking steps to insure their own safety when on the road. If they were to come into contact with a car, van or bus, they would fare much worse being the more vulnerable road user.

Once the government-backed trials are complete, there might be stricter rules placed on e-scooter riders for the sake of their safety and that of pedestrians and other road users. For the time being, however, it’s on riders themselves to take the initiative – here are some tips on staying safe on an e-scooter:

·         Give the scooter the once over

Although it’s the responsibility of operators to ensure their e-scooters are safe to ride, it doesn’t do you any harm to double check. Give the tyres a pinch to ensure they’re not too squashy and make sure the bolts on the stem are tight and not going to come loose during the trip.

·         Wear a helmet

It might not be a legal requirement, but wearing a helmet is common sense.

·         Watch out for potholes

The smaller wheels of an e-scooter are not made for uneven ground.

·         Beware skidding

When trying to bring an e-scooter to an immediate stop from top speed, they have a tendency to skid. It takes some practice to control a skidding scooter.

·         Be careful on hills

Many e-scooters grind to a halt on steep hills, so bear in mind that you will need to hop off and push.

·         Be extra cautious in the wet

Rain makes braking distances longer and increases the chance of skidding.

Safety tips for drivers

While e-scooter riders have a responsibility to ensure they’re not making a mockery of the Highway Code and to take the relevant safety precautions, drivers also need to be mindful when sharing the road with these vehicles.

Ultimately, the expectation is that e-scooters will become a staple of UK roads in the years to come, at least in the big towns and cities, so it’s important that we as motorists factor them into our daily driving.

Here are some tips on avoiding a collision with an e-scooter:

·         Treat e-scooters like cyclists

Give them plenty of space, anticipate their movements and only overtake when safe to do so.

·         Limit distractions

Don’t fiddle with the dashboard unnecessarily when driving in built-up areas.

·         Be more aware of your blindspot

Before making certain manoeuvres (such as turning left or right) double check your mirrors for e-scooter riders, expecting them even in unexpected places.

·         Give an extra look

When pulling out at a junction or roundabout, look specifically for e-scooters which you might have missed on a first glance.

·         Don’t pull out on them

E-scooters can travel up to 15mph, which is fairly nippy, especially in built-up areas, so don’t try to pull out in front of them.

·         Take extra care in wet conditions

Braking distances for both you and the e-scooter rider will be longer in wet conditions.

·         Use the ‘Dutch Reach’

When getting out of the car, rather than using the hand closest to the door to open it, use your far hand; this gives you a complete view of any oncoming traffic such as e-scooters.

·         Maintain a light touch

Try not to accelerate or brake suddenly around e-scooters, which can cause needless danger.

A woman riding an e-scooter

Just how safe are e-scooters?

E-scooters sometimes get a bad rap for the safety risks they’re perceived to pose. But a recent report by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, titled ‘UK E-scooter Safety Report’, concluded that they “have lower casualty rates compared to other travel modes”.

“Our findings indicate that the risk to pedestrians is relatively low, despite the common perception. We also found that there was no significant rise in incidents in the evening, again contrary to the perception that e-scooters are associated with anti-social behaviour around common pub closing times,” the report added.

However, amongst its recommendations was for greater safety standards around the visibility of e-scooters on the road and for riders to be provided with mandatory training on the Highway Code.

It also wants to see some training on e-scooter behaviour for other road users, in particular car drivers. Reading this article is a great place to start.

Locked compound car insurance

E-scooters are yet another variable on the roads, potentially making it harder for drivers to stay incident free. If you were to be involved in an accident, the police could seize your vehicle while they carry out their investigations.

Locked compound car insurance is required if your car is seized, and you need evidence of insurance in order to release it.

It can be a stressful time when your car is impounded. Insurance Factory is on hand with locked compound car insurance to help make retrieving your vehicle hassle-free.

We can arrange locked compound car insurance cover for 30 days, helping you to release your car and covering you on the road for one month.

Get a quote for locked compound car insurance cover today.