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The move marks a big step forward for electric scooters in the UK, which have been illegal to use on the country’s roads despite how common they’ve become in the US and other European countries. This is because the country’s preexisting laws treat them like traditional motor vehicles, saddling them with safety and legal regulations that are impossible for them to comply with. Laws also prohibit their use on sidewalks.
The government’s announcement includes some health and safety requirements, including a 15.5 mph (around 25 km/h) maximum speed limit. Users will also need to be over the age of 16, and will need to have at least a provisional car, motorcycle, or moped license. Helmets will be recommended but not mandatory, and the scooters will continue to not be allowed on sidewalks.
Over the course of this year, the UK’s government has started taking steps toward legalizing electric scooters. Back in March, it announced a public consultation into their use, with a goal of starting the first scooter trials in late 2020. However, more recently, the government’s plans have accelerated as social distancing requirements have made it difficult to use public transport safely, and alongside bycycles electric scooters are seen as an environmentally friendly alternative. Last month, the country’s Department for Transport announced that it would be bringing the scooter trials forward as part of a series of measures that also included big investments in cycling infrastructure.
“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,” said the UK’s Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, “The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.”
Electric scooter trials to be available to every UK region in June 2020
Grant Shapps, Transport Minister for the UK Government, announced on Saturday (9/5/20) that electric scooter trials have been brought forward to “next month”. Just four local authorities were originally set to trial e-scooters some time in 2021, but the Coronavirus pandemic has led to the trials being fast-tracked to next month and made available to every region in the UK.
“E-scooter trials will be brought forward from next year to next month to help encourage more people off public transport and onto greener alternatives,” states the GOV.UK website. “Now (to) be offered to all local areas across the country, (this) will allow government to assess the benefits of e-scooters as well as their impact on public space, with the potential to see rental vehicles on UK roads as early as June.”
In tandem with walking and cycling, Shapps himself identified that e-scooters were a potentially key contributor to get the UK’s workforce back to work healthily.
“We know that cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities,” he said.
The details of how e-scooter trials will work, including regulations and legislation that will govern the trials, are still to be unveiled, and it has been suggested that regions will have to apply to adopt the trial in their area. Key questions will revolve around whether helmet use or a form of insurance will be mandatory, and whether e-scooters will require speed limitations.
“Travel on public transport doesn’t allow for social distancing and therefore in my opinion there is a higher risk of coronavirus being transmitted.”
As the Government sets out tentative, conditional plans to gradually move the UK out of lockdown, many have worried about how they will get to work (when they are told to do so). For example, it has been clear that it will be impossible for people to social distance effectively on public transport, especially during rush hour.
The Government has admitted that, even when public transport is back up and running at full capacity, only 1 in 10 will be able to use it whilst effectively social distancing. It’s also conscious that the benefits like improved air quality seen over the course of the UK lockdown should not be lost.
Not only does air pollution cause 40,000 to 50,000 early deaths a year1 , but studies have shown that it may play a role in higher COVID-19 mortality rates, with hearts and lungs weakened by dirty air2
The Government has announced that a total of £2bn is to be invested into encouraging and facilitating walking, cycling and green travel.
With public transport carrying capacity now severely reduced – and to try to ensure that the UK doesn’t opt for car travel en-masse, which could raise traffic congestion and plunge air quality to their worst levels on record – the Government has announced that a total of £2bn is to be invested into encouraging and facilitating walking, cycling and green travel.
GOV.UK details, “Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors will be created in England within weeks as part of a £250m emergency active travel fund.”
Meanwhile, new bike and e-bike purchases will be encouraged through greater implementation of the ‘Cycle-To-Work’ scheme, and a maintenance voucher scheme will aim to help owners of older bikes to get them back in safe working order.
Scoot City will stay tuned to the details of how, where and when e-scooter trials will be conducted, and will publish updates as soon as they are confirmed. If you would like us to keep you up to date on e-scooter trial and legislation details, sign up below to our newsletter.