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Electric Scooters Can Wheel You Into a Legal Minefield

Published on: 18 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 20 Jul, 2020

Motor scooters – rules apply.

Advice is being offered by Surrey Police about the legal status of electric scooters and their use.

The government has started a 12-month trial of share or hire schemes for e-scooters, making them legal to use on roads.

Privately owned e-scooters are still subject to all legal requirements for motor vehicles. Those include:

  • Motor vehicle insurance;
  • Vehicle licensing and registration;
  • Display of plates;
  • Motor-bicycle helmet; and
  • Stricter driving licence requirements.

So it’s unlikely the owner of a privately owned e-scooter will be able to meet the legal requirements for motor vehicles on public roads.

Anyone hiring an e-scooter to use for short journeys within the designated trial area for that scheme is subject to the same laws as other motorised vehicles on the road.

It is an offence to ride an e-scooter on the pavement. Motor vehicle insurance will be provided by the e-scooter rental company for each trial, which will cover users.

To use one you must be 16 or over and have a full or provisional driving license. All of the hire scooters will be limited to a maximum of 15.5mph.

Other rules:

  • Only one person can ride an e-scooter;
  • You cannot tow anything;
  • A mobile phone must not be used when on an e-scooter;
  • A screen to display navigation information may be used, but this must be set up prior to setting off;
  • Bags or other small items should not cause a danger to the user or others, for example, hanging them from the handlebars;
  • Drunk, intoxicated, careless, and dangerous driving offences can apply to users of e-scooters; and
  • Helmets are recommended, but are not a legal requirement for the lawful driver of a rental e-scooter.

Anyone thinking of trying one to support the scheme to encourage more sustainable forms of transport for short journeys, should familiarise themselves with the controls before setting off and ride responsibly.

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Responses to Electric Scooters Can Wheel You Into a Legal Minefield

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    July 18, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Strange. I’ve searched the Surrey Police website and used Google but can’t find any advice as comprehensive (but misleading) as this attributed to them.

    Perhaps The Dragon could attribute the source with a link?

    The best I could find was the official GOV.UK page on Consultation – Legalising rental e-scooter trials, updated 30th June.

    That actually (hopefully) gives the correct information and even refers to the actual regulations that have to be circumvented, like motor vehicle type approval.

    But further, not a mention of the areas/towns considered for these trials. Do they include any in Surrey?

    Not a peep about Highway Code Rules, amended or ignored. What about enforcement, especially prohibition on pavements and pedestrianised areas?

    And then using a 15.5mph vulnerable vehicle only on roads, even cycle tracks.

    Why has such a trial started before the parliamentary committee started hearing evidence on escooter use?

    Editor’s response: The source is information sent by Surrey Police to Neighbourhood Watch members but see also: which refers to the trials commencing on July 4.

  2. David Middleton Reply

    July 19, 2020 at 10:50 am

    The bottom line is that apart from the specific hire e-Scooters in the trial scheme areas, the use of these mechanically propelled devices on any public highway, be it a road, bridleway, footpath, cycle lane, etcetera, is unlawful.

    The same applies to GoPeds, motorised skateboards, buzz boards, Segway personal transporters and the like. It matters not whether the motor is electric, petrol-powered, or even steam-powered.

    Currently, the courts have held that privately-owned e-scooters are motor vehicles and, if used to travel on a public highway, need to comply with all laws and regulations applicable.

    Even use in public places, such as commons, parks and car parks is unlawful.

    Essentially, they will be considered to be a moped (the nearest recognised classification of vehicle) and everything that would apply to a moped and the rider of a moped would apply, including the drink-drive and disqualified driving laws.

    The only place they can lawfully be used is on private land and then only with the landowner’s consent.

    It is a shame that over the years, many unscrupulous retailers have sold these devices to the public without making this clear to purchasers.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      July 19, 2020 at 12:03 pm


      All these electrical assisted vehicles are illegal to use in a public place.

      So why all this information about what could or could not be relevant, if the law was to be changed, which is not going to happen for at least a year?

      As usual, what is required, is a decision on what level of enforcement is needed to control the risks to third parties (ie pedestrians on pavements) or riders themselves on roads.

  3. Adam Aaronson Reply

    July 19, 2020 at 11:49 am

    There’s a report here that gives some more information. However, this is what you might call car-crash legislation, to coin a phrase.

    What appears to be happening is that the government is setting out a set of rules that hire companies have to abide by but simultaneously prohibiting individuals from complying to the same rules.

    Without going into all the detail, if you own an electric scooter, have a driving licence and your motor insurer covers you, and you comply with all the same regulations that the hire company is bound by, you will still be breaking the law.

    This is going to waste a considerable amount of police, CPS and court time.

    I imagine that in the meantime, someone is already setting up an online facility where you can buy a scooter hire company with all the relevant registrations so you can hire yourself a scooter.

  4. David Middleton Reply

    July 19, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    Frankly, I would be very surprised if any reputable insurance company would be prepared to insure a privately owned e-scooter to the level required under the road traffic laws, without demanding a very large premium. The risk to them in terms of personal injury and damage claims would be massive.

  5. Monica Jones Reply

    July 20, 2020 at 9:57 am

    There are so many of these on the pavements in town now and like bikes you can’t hear them. So dangerous. I had a group of five pass me a couple of days ago.

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