The UK Government has decided to accelerate trials of rental e-scooter schemes with a consultation on "urgent legislation". Although already part of an existing call for evidence on Future Mobility, the Government has scented an opportunity to test this new form of electric micro-mobility as the country's transport system re-mobilises after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The consultation is open until 2 June 2020 and, somewhat pre-empting the existing call for evidence that closes a month later, includes the Government's detailed proposals for legalisation of e-scooter trials. Crucially, the proposed legislation is intended only to cover e-scooters under rental operator schemes.
In this strict context, proposals indicate that the Government will permit trials on the basis of e-scooter regulation broadly in line with that for electric bikes (or Electrically-Assisted Pedal Cycles/ EPACs). E-scooters of no greater than 350 Watts capped at a speed of 12.5mph will be permitted with mandatory rental provider bundled insurance and a requirement that the user has an appropriate full or provisional driving licence. Vehicle type approval requirements will not apply.
Helmets are not proposed to be mandatory at this stage but only recommended (which will require a change to otherwise applicable motorcycle legislation).
As with all bikes, their use will not be permitted on pavements but only roads and cycle lanes.
Based on the Government's statement legislation can be expected to be introduced this Summer. We will potentially start seeing rental schemes in operation very shortly thereafter depending on agreements between local authorities and operators.
In truth, e-scooters have been some time coming to the UK which remains increasingly one of the few countries where they are banned outright (save on private land). Whilst the proposed introduction of legislation now comes at a pace, the proposed requirements are informed by bodies of evidence and authority, operator and user experience from other countries where e-scooters are already a familiar sight.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic we are delivering a green restart of local transport. To support this and to help mitigate reduced public transport capacity e-scooter trials will be brought forward.