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E-scooters fine to legalise, says Transport Committee 

The Transport Committee has lent its support to government plans to make e-scooters road-legal, but said robust enforcement measures are needed.

New regulations allowing trials of rental e-scooters  come into force on Saturday 4 July 2020

MPs said e-scooters could bring a low-cost, accessible and eco-friendly alternative to cars, providing certain safety measures are taken, including eliminating pavement use.

The views have been set out in a new ‘E-scooters: pavement nuisance or transport innovation’ report published today, some three months after regulations enabling trials of rental e-scooters kicked in a year early.

An increasingly common sight on UK roads and pavements, e-scooters are still banned to use anywhere except on private land in the UK. However, in all other major European economies, they’re road-legal and becoming an ever-more vital part of the mobility mix.

Earlier this year, the Department for Transport ran a consultation on micromobility vehicles exploring how new transport modes – including electric scooters – could revolutionise urban mobility. And in early summer Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned that road space needed reprioritising away from cars, particularly as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

In its new report, the Transport Committee has now lent its support to these ambitions. Committee chair Huw Merriman MP said e-scooters have the potential to become an exciting and ingenious way to navigate, getting people out of cars, reducing congestion and supporting active travel. He also said the current rental trials will provide a crucial evidence base for future legislation, which must be “sensible and proportionate”.

And the committee has also laid out some other caveats, including advising that the trials and any plans for legalisation should not be to the detriment of pedestrians, particularly the disabled.

It’s also called for robust enforcement measures to eliminate pavement use of e-scooters, which the report says is dangerous and anti-social.

The report also says that the Department for Transport must only encourage the use of e-scooters to replace short car journeys – rather than walking and cycling, which would be a rather counter-productive move.

Other recommendations to the Government include not requiring users to have licences but encouraging them to use helmets, monitoring the number and types of collisions during the trials to determine future insurance requirements, and for local authorities to determine the speed of e-scooters in their areas; as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not work.

The report has been broadly welcomed by the AA, which gave evidence to the Transport Committee.

President Edmund King said: “E-scooters, as a new form of micro-mobility, can really help to transform the urban landscape – improving flexibility of personal travel, especially in the shadow of the Covid pandemic making public transport problematic in many instances.”

He echoed the committee in saying that certain safety criteria must be met though.

“As the safest option, we would support the use of e-scooters on extended dedicated cycle ways and recommend some form of training before setting off on the public highway. We also believe that safety features such as larger front wheels, directional indicators, brakes and lights must be required to ensure a safer riding experience,” King advocated.

The RAC also warned that the legalisation of e-scooters, while having the potential to transform mobility, was “fraught with difficulties”.

Head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “From ensuring limited road space can be safely shared by drivers, cyclists and now e-scooter riders, right through to how to minimising the chances of them being used on pavements, there is a great deal for national and local government, as well as police forces, to work through. There is also a good argument for ensuring there is sufficient segregated cycle/scooter-ways built to reduce the amount of conflict between these new forms of transport and existing road traffic.”

Key points from the RAC include effective regulation and education of riders, restrictions to just roads and cycle lanes, and that e-scooters be speed-limited. Lyes also said the Government should explore whether mandatory insurance and registration plates for e-scooters could bring enhanced safety benefits.

He continued: “While there are trials taking place in some parts of the country, it’s worth remembering that these are hire schemes and that private e-scooter use remains illegal.”

And insurer Admiral also said that safety should be the top priority before any changes come into play as it reports a spike in the number of accident claims involving e-scooter riders.

Highlighting how e-scooters have grown in popularity, Adam Gavin, deputy head of claims, said: “Unfortunately, with this rise in the number of people using e-scooters comes an increase in risk for all road users. So far this year Admiral has seen a spike in the number of accident claims involving E-scooter riders, with 26 claims handled this year. That might not sound like a lot, but when compared to last year where there were just five claims involving them, it’s a big difference.

“The world of transport is evolving, so it’s important that infrastructure evolves alongside it to meet demand and keep all road users safe. If E-scooters are made legal on UK roads, it’s vital that safety is the top priority before any changes come into play. There are measures that can and should be taken to make it as safe as possible, not just for e-scooter riders but for all other road users too. This means introducing regulation for the industry, enforceable speed limits, the use of helmets, and even making sure appropriate insurance is in place.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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