E Scooter revolution gives rise to safety and injury concerns
Posted Jul 21, 2020.
What Are The New E-Scooter Laws?
After years of steadily increasing - and usually illegal - growth in their use, legislation changes made earlier this month in the UK are likely to see a big rise in the use of E-Scooters as an effective, eco-friendly means of transport. So how do the new laws work and what are the implications should an E-Scooter be involved in an accident that results in damage to property or a bodily injury?
Originally conceived of as far back as 1915, since 2013, powered electric scooters (E-Scooters) have exploded in popularity due to advances in light, longer-lasting lithium battery technology and small, powerful brushless motors. Most E-Scooters have a central platform on which the rider stands, two small wheels, and a foldable, aluminium chassis. Their compact dimensions, folding design and low running costs have made them a popular personal mobility choice in cities throughout the world. Their popularity has been magnified during the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, as commuter seek to avoid potentially crowded public transport whilst at the same time benefiting from lower traffic volumes and quieter, safer roads.
Recent changes in legislation
Noting their popularity and practicality whilst being aware that in many UK cities, authorities have been turning a blind eye to illegal use of E-Scooters, the 4th of July saw the law change. E-Scooters are now legal in England, Scotland and Wales but only if they are part of a licensed share scheme, similar to ‘Boris Bike’ and other such schemes for pedal cycles. Over 40 councils have expressed an interest in starting such schemes. The legislation states that the scooters will be limited to a top speed of 15.5mph, can only be ridden by over-16’s with a full or provisional driving licence and will be banned from being ridden on pavements.
The rise in the popularity of E-Scooters and what are often termed ‘micro-mobility’ solutions (meaning cheap, short-distance personal travel devices including unpowered scooters, pedal and E-Bikes that have a low environmental impact) has prompted safety concerns on a number of levels. Many cities in the UK have seen rapid Covid-19 related changes to road layouts including expanded cycle lanes, traffic bans and pedestrianisation schemes; many feel that adding large numbers of E-Scooters into this mix could result in an increase in collisions and injuries as road users of all types adapt to the ‘new normal’.
Large scale E-Scooter use in cities such as Lisbon and Paris has already resulted in numerous accidents and collisions in which pedestrians and riders have been injured or even killed. Their huge popularity if France has resulted in the French government introducing tougher rules governing their use, including the speed limits, pavement ban and rider age requirements that the UK will be insisting upon since day-1. However, at this stage compulsory helmet use is not being considered.
In addition, if the experience of city centre bike-share schemes over the past 20 years is anything to go by, pay as you ride scooter rental schemes, most of which use a ‘dock-less’ pickup and drop-off system, may well lead to E-Scooters cluttering up pavements and shopping areas creating trip hazards once the rider has finished their journey.
The first UK schemes will run on a 12-month trial basis. If all goes well, it is likely that E-Scooter laws will be expanded to include private owner/riders, helping to expand their usage farther afield into suburbs, towns and rural areas.
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