E-scooters ' A Transport Revolution?

Publication Date18 June 2020
AuthorMs Vikki Melville and Mark Hemsted
SubjectInsurance, Transport, Rail, Road & Cycling, Insurance Laws and Products
Law FirmClyde & Co

The use of e-scooters is becoming increasingly more popular, particularly in busy cities; with more than 100 hire schemes in operation worldwide. It is estimated the global market for shared e-scooter rides could reach $50 billion by 2025. However legal and regulatory issues are beginning to manifest as this burgeoning technology develops.

In the UK it is currently illegal to ride an e-scooter on a public road, cycle lane or pavement. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the government is seeking to fast-track e-scooter trials to help mitigate reduced public transport capacity. The Transport Secretary has described the UK as being "on the cusp of a transport revolution" with the government currently consulting on urgent legislation to allow trials to commence more rapidly and in more areas than initially planned. The Department of Transport states, "E-scooters could be a fast and clean way to travel that eases the burden on the transport network and allows for social distancing."

Proposals for e-scooter trials

To enable trials, local e-scooter companies will provide e-scooters for hire on the street in England, Scotland and Wales. Only selected rental e-scooters will be allowed in the trials to ensure they take place in a safe and controlled way. Originally four areas were chosen for the trials, but the plan is to now "enable trials of rental e-scooters in several areas around the country." Expanding the trials to a greater cross-section of society will assist in ascertaining likely demand, usage and safety issues.

Privately owned e-scooters will remain illegal to use in public, even if used in a designated trial area. However given the increased (illegal) usage of e-scooters, we anticipate private e-scooter owners will continue to use their own scooters outside of the trial setting, raising the need for improved enforcement in this area.

Proposed regulatory changes

During the trial, e-scooters will continue to be classed as motor vehicles and therefore insurance and a driving licence will be required. It is recognised, however, that existing regulations require amendment so the trials will be representative of how e-scooters may operate in the future. The proposal is to regulate e-scooter trials in a similar way to electrically-assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs). Regulations will need to carefully ensure public safety whilst not stifling innovation and demand.

In the US, where app-enabled e-scooter sharing services are already popular, some cities...

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