Whether you like them or loathe them, it’s likely that we will soon see more e-scooters on our streets – with new regulations coming into force, on Saturday 4 July 2020, allowing trials of rental e-scooters.
The trials are designed to help understand whether e-scooters reduce motor traffic, as well as their impacts on safety for their users and others. They will be strictly prohibited on pavements, will be limited to 15.5mph and riders are recommended to wear helmets.
Users will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence to take part in the trials, and must be 16 or over. To avoid a flood of poor-quality scooters onto the streets, the regulations only cover rental schemes. Individually owned scooters will still be illegal on public roads.”
It seems that the 12 month trial has been brought forward given the difficulties commuters are experiencing in terms of social distancing on public transport.
Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean said:
“As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way that could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities across Great Britain. E-scooters may offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing. The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.”
But, what does this mean in practice?
It’s important to note that this trial applies only to rented e-scooters, not privately owned e-scooters. Also, the trial only applies to certain geographical areas. Individually owned e-scooters will still be illegal on public roads. If you use a hired scooter outside the trial areas, you can be fined. If you use a privately owned scooter on any public road, cycle lane or pavement, you can be fined. The fine can be a £300 fixed-penalty notice as well as six points on your driving licence.
Also, at present, there’s no mandatory requirement to have insurance whilst riding an e-scooter. Therefore, anyone who is injured by an e-scooter may experience difficulty in pursuing a claim.
Concerns have already been expressed by the Royal National Institute of Blind People regarding the risks that silent e-scooters present to vulnerable people, such as those who are partially sighted.
Riders themselves are also extremely vulnerable. In July 2019, YouTube star, Emily Hartridge was tragically killed when her e-scooter was struck by a lorry in Battersea, London. In another incident, Karmen Curley, from Northern Ireland, sadly suffered a traumatic brain injury after her e-scooter hit a pothole whilst she was visiting her sister in Los Angeles last year.
With commuters looking for alternative ways to safely commute and to avoid public transport during the current pandemic, it’s inevitable that more people will turn to e-scooters. However, this should not be at the expense of health and safety.
The debate on the use of e-scooters on public roads is likely to develop during the 12 month trial, but surely in order for e-scooters to be used safely, in addition to the requirements already set out by the Department of Transport, there should be consideration of mandatory insurance to ride an e-scooter, a legal requirement to wear a helmet whilst riding an e-scooter, more dedicated cycle lanes and raising public awareness of the presence of silent e-scooters.