Are electric scooters legal in the UK?

by Mark Jones in Guides on August 18, 2019

If you’ve recently visited a major European city, or headed over to the States, the chances are you will have witnessed the latest transport craze: electric scooters.

However, despite their ever-growing popularity and environmental benefits, those wishing to ride in the UK are facing a pretty significant red light: electric scooters are currently illegal on UK roads and pavements.

So, if you are considering making an e-scooter purchase, where exactly can you ride it and what are the legal restrictions?

 electric scooters

What are electric scooters?

For the most part, e-scooters (also known as a motorised scooters) look very similar to their kick scooter cousins. The primary difference is that instead of being propelled forward manually, an electric scooter relies on an electric battery motor, providing significantly increased speeds and an easy, comfortable ride. Whilst both types of scooter are illegal on pavements, a classic kick scooter can legally be ridden on the road.

Depending on their battery capabilities, some electric scooters are able to reach speeds of up to 30mph, with some models possessing a range of over 60 miles.

The result is a mode of transport that is, in theory, perfect for both tourists and commuters alike, allowing them to quickly and conveniently navigate urban environments. Despite being outlawed on UK roads, many other cities across the world have tapped into the benefits of e-scooters, although safety concerns are being highlighted.

In Paris, which has been hailed as the world-wide hub of e-scootering, riders can legally use electric scooters both on cycle lanes. It is now estimated that over 20,000 e-scooters are navigating the streets of Paris, with many users taking advantage of ‘dockless’ schemes, whereby e-scooters can be hired instantly for short journeys.

 british police officer

Why are they illegal in the UK?

It is a complex set of laws that deem the public use of electric scooters to be illegal. However, these regulations are set to come under review as other countries leave the UK in the dust.

E-scooters are classed by the Government as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), making it completely illegal to ride in any public space, including roads or pavements. Any rider caught using an electric scooter in one of these restricted areas will be subject to a £300 fixed-penalty notice – quite a fee for trying to improve your daily commute.

E-scooters are also subject to further complex classification from the DVLA, who identifies them as motor vehicles. This means that in order to be legal on the roads, they must comply with laws surrounding such vehicles. This includes:

  • Valid MOT & tax
  • A driver’s license
  • Visible rear lights
  • Signalling ability
  • Number plates

Due to the design of electric scooters, it is often impossible to comply with these regulations, automatically making them inherently illegal. Additionally, due to the rider requiring a valid driver’s license, anyone under the age of 17 using an e-scooter will naturally be breaking the law.

Those hoping to work around this by riding on the pavement rather than roads will also find themselves breaking the law: the 1835 Highways Act prohibits the riding of ‘carriages’ on pavements. Whilst it is unlikely that lawmakers of the 19th Century wrote this act with the prohibition of electric scooters in mind, the legislation still restricts the use of such vehicles.

In other countries such as Denmark and France, governing bodies have promoted the use of safe scooting by ruling that e-scooters can only be used within designated cycle lanes. This not only protects pedestrians occupying pavements, but also prevents riders from encountering larger vehicles such as cars or vans, promoting their safety. Unfortunately, this legislation is yet to be enforced in the UK.

There are additional legal issues surround the safety regulations of electric scooter manufacturing. As it is a rapidly evolving industry, laws have struggled to keep up with monitoring the production of the scooters themselves, and the safety features and equipment that must be included. This means that manufacturing regulations are limited, allowing inferior companies to construct vehicles without proper safety features such as effective brakes.

riding on private property

Where is it legal to ride an electric scooter?

Although they for now remain illegal to use on public roads or pavements in the UK, there is still scope for riders to get out and enjoy the undeniable thrill of an electric scooter.

The law decrees that whilst public use of e-scooters is unlawful, they are completely legal when used on private property. This means that if you possess land or obtain the permission of a landowner, you can legally ride your electric scooter.

However, this does naturally restrict their usage. Electric scooters are primarily designed to effectively navigate inner-city environments in order to revolutionise the commute, as well as provide a unique experience for tourists. Being limited to privately owned land means e-scooters are unavailable to fulfil their transport potential in the UK.

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