The use of electric scooters on public roads is set to be made legal under a new Transport Bill unveiled in the Queen’s Speech.
Currently, their public use is only permitted as part of a series of trial schemeswith private scooters banned from roads.
The announcement was one of 38 Bills included in the Queen’s Speechwhich was delivered by Prince Charles, with the Queen forced to miss the event due to her “Episodic mobility problems”.
What are the current UK laws on electric scooters?
Existing laws only permit licensed e-scooters for hire in a number of towns and cities in the UKwith trials set up in dozens of towns and cities in England.
Around 20,000 e-scooters are currently available to ride legally under rental schemes in cities such as Bristol, London and Liverpool.
Anyone with a private device is banned from riding them on public roads and pavements – they can only be used on private land. Despite this, sales have boomed in recent years.
Under the current trials, people must be 16 and have at least a provisional driving license to use an e-scooter.
Age limits vary across Europe; in France children as young as 12 can ride them, but in Italy it is only those over 18.
Penalties for those who break the rules which could include fines of £ 300 and up to six points on your driving license.
Are e-scooters being made legal in the UK?
Under the new Transport Bill introduced in the 2022 Queen’s Speech, people who have their own electric scooters will be legally allowed to ride them on public roads.
The legislation will allow e-scooters under strict safety conditions such as speed limits and, potentially, requirements for helmets and indicators, Whitehall sources told the.
It has been recommended that speed limits remain at 15.5mph, the same as the current trials, to keep e-scooters roughly in line with cycling speeds.
The move will be hailed by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shappsas part of plans to reduce carbon emissions.
Commuting by e-scooter has become increasingly popular due to the high cost of fuel and Covid safety concerns on public transport.
A Government spokeswoman said: “Safety will always be our top priority and our trials are helping us to better understand the benefits of properly regulated, safety-tested e-scooters and their impact on public space.
“While riding a privately owned e-scooter on public land is currently illegal, we are considering how best to design future regulations and our Transport Bill will help us to take the steps we need to make e-scooters safer and support innovation.”
Are electric scooters safe?
The plans are expected to be controversial, with campaigners saying accidents related to e-scooters have soared by 40 per cent between 2020 and 2021 following the introduction of the licensed hire pilot schemes.
A Freedom of Information request to all NHS Ambulance Trusts by the Major Trauma Group revealed that 173 patients were taken to A&E following an e-scooter accident in 2021, up from 124 in 2020.
Some 82 per cent more ambulances were called to assist e-scooter-related accidents during 2021 than in 2020, the figures revealed. The largest increases were in Northern Ireland and north-west England.
Meanwhile, a rise in fires linked to more e-scooters has been reported. Fires caused by lithium batteries trebled between 2020 and 2021, according to figures from London Fire Brigade.
Most lithium battery blazes are caused by defective equipment, the wrong charger being used or items left on charge for too long.
Trevor Sterling, chair of the Major Trauma Group and senior partner at the law firm Moore Barlow, called on ministers to introduce tough safety measures and said the public needed to be educated on the new rules of the road.
He said: “E-transport technology is very exciting and will support the UK in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
“A change in the law to legalize private e-scooter use would hold e-scooters to a high standard of safety and help to lower greenhouse gas emissions from transport, as well as cutting congestion and repurposing streets away from cars.
“We must prioritise educating road users on the changing nature of our roads to keep everyone safe.”