Riding an electric scooter legally on private land

Are electric scooters legal? UK law explained (November 2022 update)

Good news - it's legal to buy escooters in the UK. Bad news - it's not yet legal to ride your own scooter on public roads. Better news - that could soon be set to change, starting with the current right to ride a rental escooter. 

Private scooters: the law today - October 2022

Technically, an electric scooter is a motorised two-wheel vehicle or Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV). They differ from electric bikes not just because they don't have pedals but because they are classed as motor vehicles under the road traffic laws.

Why are electric scooters illegal?

Because escooters don't (usually) comply with road traffic laws - in particular they don't have rear lights or registration plates - it's not legal to use a privately-owned scooter on UK roads.

This is why you'll often hear it is said they are legal only on private land (and even then, only with the landowner's permission). 

What if you're caught?

If you were caught on a public highway, you'd technically be driving a motor vehicle with no insurance - you could be liable for a fixed penalty of £300 and six points on your driving licence. If the case went to court, you could get an unlimited fine and be disqualified from driving. Your scooter could also be impounded.

Even if you did have a model that followed the rules, you'd also need to obey other law to use it - tax, insurance, MOT, driving licence and helmet.

Rented scooters: the law today - November 2002

The government is currently running trials in 31 regions where it's legal to use rental scooters on public roads (excluding motorways) and in cycle lanes (but not on pavements).

In the trial, the hiring company arranges the insurance. Users still need a valid driving licence (full or provisional - categories AM, A1, A2, A and B) and can then ride the escooters on roads and in cycle lanes and tracks (NB not on pavements). Helmets are recommended but not compulsory.

You need to use them safely and carefully. Don't use a mobile phone while driving, avoid bags hanging from handlebars, and don't drink and ride. 

The trials were originally due to end on 30 November 2021 but were extended due to the pandemic. They were then extended a second time and are now due to finish on 30 November 2022. Existing participating local authorities have just been given the option to either end their local trial or extend it to 31 May 2024.

Scooter rental companies taking part include TIER, Lime, Voi and Dott.  

Even in these trial areas, you still can't use a privately owned escooter on road. 

Electric scooter trial areas in 2022 and 2024

The current trial areas which have announced plans to extend to 2024:

  1. Bournemouth and Poole
  2. Buckinghamshire (Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Princes Risborough)
  3. Cambridge
  4. Liverpool
  5. Milton Keynes
  6. Norwich
  7. Portsmouth
  8. Slough
  9. South Somerset (Yeovil)
  10. Sunderland
  11. West Midlands (Birmingham, Coventry and Sandwell)

Areas that have not yet announced (as of mid October) if they will extend:

  1. Cheshire West and Chester
  2. Copeland (Whitehaven)
  3. Derby
  4. Essex (Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester)
  5. Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and Gloucester)
  6. Great Yarmouth
  7. London (participating boroughs)
  8. Newcastle
  9. North and West Northamptonshire (Northampton, Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough)
  10. North Devon (Barnstaple)
  11. North Lincolnshire (Scunthorpe)
  12. Nottingham
  13. Oxfordshire (Oxford)
  14. Redditch
  15. Salford
  16. Solent (Isle of Wight and Southampton)
  17. Somerset West (Taunton and Minehead)
  18. Tees Valley (Hartlepool and Middlesbrough)
  19. West of England Combined Authority (Bristol and Bath)
  20. York

Currently only one area is definitely stopping the trial

  1. Kent (Canterbury) - on safety grounds

Private scooters - future law change

The government is looking into legalising e scooters. Key questions are:

  • Should they be treated like ebikes?
  • What should the maximum speed or power be?
  • Is a handlebar compulsory?
  • Should escooters be permitted in cycle lanes?
  • What about braking distances, lights, size etc?
  • Should users need to register them, have a licence, be a certain age?

In a recent government consultation, the general view was to legally treat them like electric bikes. There was widespread support for legalisation and an overwhelming view that clear regulations are needed. This approach was backed up by a recent electroheads survey.

Buy an adult escooter now.

Defining an escooter

These were the criteria the government used to legalise the rental escooters in the trials - this is a reasonable starting point for what may be legalised (but could well be amended in some way):

  • A single electric motor with a maximum continuous power rating of 500W
  • No pedals that can propel the scooter
  • Designed to carry only one person
  • Maximum speed of 15.5mph
  • 2 wheels, 1 front and 1 rear, aligned along the direction of travel (ie no hoverboards!)
  • Weight less than 55kg A mass including the battery, but excluding the rider
  • Directional control via handlebars mechanically linked to the steered wheel
  • Has a way to control the speed via hand controls and a power control that defaults to the ‘off’ position.
  • Seats ARE allowed.
  • A white-front and rear-red position lamp

When will escooters be legal in the UK?

Approved rental scooters in the 31 trial areas (maximum 30 from November 2022)  are already legal on public roads, as long as you have a driving licence. When private scooters are legalised is up to the government - which has said it wants to enact legislation in the current Parliamentary session, so before spring 2023. This was announced last month before Rishi Sunak became PM, and he hasn't made any commitment either way yet. 

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