A new vehicle class is to be created to help make the use of private e-scooters legal on public roads.
Currently only rental scooters operated as part of trial schemes can be used on the roads but plans to widen their use were announced in the Queen’s Speech as part of a new Transport Bill.
Following the announcement in the Monarch’s speech, under-secretary of state for transport Baroness Vere told the House of Lords that a new vehicle category would be created to help regulate e-scooters.
She said: “It is our intention that the [Transport] Bill will create a low-speed, zero-emission vehicle category that is independent from the cycle and motor vehicle categories.
“New powers would allow the Government to decide the vehicles that fall into this new category in future and how they should be regulated to make sure that they are safe to use. We hope that e-scooters will be the first of these vehicles.”
Currently, e-scooters fall under the same regulation as other motor vehicles, which set licensing, tax and insurance requirements.
Any regulations on the new class of vehicle are expected to set strict safety conditions on electric scooters, including maximum speeds, lighting requirements and possibly mandating the wearing of helmets for users.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps previously told MPs that he wanted to “crack down on the private market and make it illegal to sell e-scooters which don’t meet the regulatory standards”. He indicated that once such standards were established, rules could be changed to allow use of private scooters on public land.
Following the Queen’s Speech, a government spokeswoman said: “While riding a privately owned e-scooter on public land is currently illegal, we are considering how best to design future regulations and our Transport Bill will help us to take the steps we need to make e-scooters safer and support innovation.
“Safety will always be our top priority and our trials are helping us to better understand the benefits of properly regulated, safety-tested e-scooters and their impact on public space.”
There are currently 30 trial schemes taking place around the country. Scooters used in the trials are limited to 15.5mph and riders have to have a driving licence in order to rent one.
AA president Edmund King said that e-scooters could be a positive element in greener transport if properly managed. He said: "With e-scooters and other forms of micro-mobility popping up more frequently on UK roads, it makes sense that safety regulation should come first.
"If introduced alongside appropriate infrastructure, e-mobility could help provide a positive shift in greener localised travel both for individuals and last-mile freight."
Tighter regulation of e-scooters has been welcomed amid concerns over the soaring number of injuries and accidents involving the vehicles.
According to government figures for 2020, one person was killed and 128 were seriously injured in crashes involving e-scooters on public roads.
Data obtained by the Major Trauma Group from ambulance trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland also showed that 713 e-scooter related accidents were attended by NHS ambulance vehicles during 2021, up from 392 the year before. The data also reveals that the number of patients being referred to A&E after e-scooter accidents increased by 40% between 2020 and 2021, with 173 patients being taken to their local A&E during 2021.
Trevor Sterling, chair of the Major Trauma Group, commented: “It is only when all types of e-scooters are subject to the same rigorous standard of safety that we will see a reduction in preventable incidents and less strain on the NHS.”
Martin Usher, Partner in the personal injury team at Lime Solicitors said clear rules on e-scooters were a “step in the right direction”.
He added: “We need to face the reality that transport is evolving and micro mobility vehicles and e-scooters will be on our roads, for better or worse. Legalisation presents the significant opportunity to enforce tighter safety regulations for private e-scooters, and to improve education to ensure that all road users have access to safe, green transport.
“Private e-scooters are already being used on the streets despite this being illegal, and these privately owned vehicles can be altered to reach considerable speeds that those involved in the public trials do not allow, due to a lack of proper regulation.”
James Attwood, editor of consumer site Move Electric, said there was an appetite among drivers to see e-scooters legalised and properly regulated. “Our research found nearly a quarter of drivers were already in favour of making the technology road legal,” he said.
“It’s also clear the public want to see the technology properly regulated. More than three-quarters of respondents in favour of legalising the technology want to see e-scooters restricted to a maximum speed of 15.5mph and fitted with an acoustic warning system. Likewise, 72.42% want them banned from pavements and only allowed on the roads to keep pedestrians safe.”