E-scooters: what’s the law?

With Elmhirst Parker Solicitors, Barnsley

Do you know the law surrounding use of electric scooters, e-bikes, micro bikes and quad bikes?

Since last summer, sales of electric-powered scooters and bikes have continued to rise. But if you own an e-scooter, quad bike or similar mode of transportation, it’s important to understand the rules and your obligations or you could find yourself breaking the law.

E-scooters and the law

A powered transporter is the term used to describe vehicles such as electric scooters, Segways, go-peds and hoverboards. As powered transporters are propelled by a motor, they are considered ‘motor vehicles’ and are treated as such under the Road Traffic Act. This means they are subject to the same restrictions as regular cars and motorcycles and police have the power to seize those being illegally used.

If you wish to use this type of vehicle, it will need to be taxed, registered, insured and have an MOT (where required). You must also hold a valid driving licence for the category of vehicle you wish to use on the road. Failure to drive without insurance can result in a Fixed Penalty Notice of six points on your driving license and a £300 fine.

The vehicle must meet the legal requirements for road vehicle safety. However, the majority of these vehicles do not have basic safety features such as visible rear red lights, number plates or signalling ability and will therefore not be ‘road legal’.

Where can I ride my e-scooter?

Currently, privately owned e-scooters can only be used on private land. You are not permitted to use a motorised vehicle in council areas including public parks. It is a criminal offence to use a motorised vehicle on a public footpath, cycle lane or road, unless taking part in a government-backed trial.

Are e-scooters the future of transport?

Electric scooters are currently subject to government trials in 55 towns and cities across the UK, and may become an efficient, economical and environmentally friendly mode of transportation in the near future.

In Yorkshire, York is currently the only place where the government scheme is running. Here, e-scooters are hired from licensed vendors and can be used on the road (except motorways) and cycle lanes at a maximum speed limit of 15.5mph.

Once the trial period ends next March, evidence gathered will be used to decide whether e-scooters are a safe and viable mode of transport. However, there has been a rise in accidents involving users and pedestrians and campaigners are urging the government to reassess their stance.

What about electric bikes?

Electric bikes have become increasingly popular and are known as Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPCs). EAPCs can be used on the road by users over 14 years of age, but the bike must meet certain requirements. You cannot use an EAPC on the pavement.

EAPCs are not classed as motor vehicles so you do not need insurance or a driving licence to operate one. You are also not required to pay road tax on an EAPC.

Using a quad bike or micro bike off-road

Many places have commercially operated areas allowing you to use your own quad bike or mini motorbike, or you may be able to rent them for use. You can also use them on private land provided you have the consent of the landowner.

You do not need to have a valid driving licence to ride a quad bike or micro bike off-road and you do not need to tax the vehicle for off-road use.

*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.