Electric scooter laws in the UK - 2023
- Read Time: 7 min
It might be confusing to understand or know exactly what the law says regarding electric scooters in the UK. After all, they can be seen in most cities and people use them. So what is the status at the time of writing? Let's go through it.
Are privately owned e-scooters legal in the UK?
Yes and no. At the time of writing, it is legal to buy a privately owned e-scooter but it is illegal to ride it on paved roads, bike lanes or pedestrian areas. You are allowed to ride it on private land with the landowner's permission.
Under current UK laws, e-scooters fall under the term "Powered Transporters". A term used to cover new and emerging personal devices powered by a motor. And this includes e-scooters as well as unicycles and hoverboards.
Furthermore, because of how powered transporters are motorised and designed, they fall under the legal definition of motor vehicles. For an e-scooter to meet the legal requirement, it must therefore be treated as a "motor vehicle" which of course is subject to vehicle tax and registration amongst other things. Something that is not yet possible for an e-scooter.
Ignoring this and still riding an e-scooter illegally on public roads or other prohibited areas is considered a criminal offence and therefore subject to law and prosecution.
Why do I see people ride them?
E-scooters are popular and can not be ignored by the powers that be. Zero emission vehicles are all the rage now and they will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. Transport emissions and traffic congestions are a big problem and anything that can help the situation is to be considered. But with the caveat that these alternatives need to be safe for users and non-users alike.
The Department for Transportation has therefore allowed for a rental scooters trial period in certain cities and boroughs, expected to run until November 2022. These are the areas where trials are taking place:
- Bournemouth and Poole
- Buckinghamshire (Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Princes Risborough)
- Cheshire West and Chester (Chester)
- Copeland (Whitehaven)
- Essex (Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester)
- Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and Gloucester)
- Great Yarmouth
- Kent (Canterbury)
- London (participating boroughs)
- Milton Keynes
- North and West Northamptonshire (Northampton, Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough)
- North Devon (Barnstaple)
- North Lincolnshire (Scunthorpe)
- Oxfordshire (Oxford)
- Solent (Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton)
- Somerset West (Taunton and Minehead)
- South Somerset (Yeovil)
- Tees Valley (Hartlepool and Middlesbrough)
- West Midlands (Birmingham, Coventry and Sandwell)
- West of England Combined Authority (Bristol and Bath)
But there are restrictions:
- Riders must be 18 or older and at least hold a provisional driving license.
- There is a mandatory "to do" training for all first-time riders in London. How to ride safely.
- The maximum speed allowed is 12,5 mph (20 kph) and they will automatically reduce the speed to 8 mph (13 kph) in certain "go slow" areas.
- The lights front and back are always illuminated when the e-scooter is in use.
- City of London
- Hammersmith & Fulham
- Kensington and Chelsea
- Lambeth (north of the borough only)
- Richmond upon Thames
- Tower Hamlets (limited parking at Canary Wharf and some TfL stations)
Will they become legal in the near future?
It would seem that the winds are blowing in a positive direction as far as the UK government and legality regarding e-scooters go.
On 27 April 2022, the transport secretary told the House of Commons Transport Committee that a plan to introduce legislation allowing the government to regulate e-scooters was in the pipeline for 2022-23.
In addition, in the Queen's Speech, a new Transport Bill was introduced to legalize private electric scooters for public roads.
This statement was followed up on Wednesday, May 11:th in the House of Lords by government spokeswoman Baroness Vere stating:
"Safety is also at the heart of our plans, to create a regulatory framework for smaller, lighter, zero-emission vehicles, sometimes known as e-scooters. My Lords, their popularity is clear, and new rules are needed to improve safety and crack down on illegal use, whilst unlocking innovation and growth in this emerging multi-billion pound industry."
How fast and effective they will be in making privately owned electric scooters legal for public roads remains to be seen.
We will update the info as soon as we know.
What about rental scooters?
As mentioned above, rental scooters are on a trial period in many cities around the UK.
The e-scooter rental trial is part of a wider effort by TfL, London Councils, London boroughs and the UK Government to enable people to use new and greener forms of transport.
This approach will help reduce the risk of an increase in car use after the coronavirus pandemic, which could lead to traffic congestion and a further negative impact on inner-cities air quality.
What about e-bikes, they seem legal, what's the difference?
Electric bikes are categorized by law as EAPCs. Short for "electrically-assisted pedal cycles". They have a specific law that governs them which means that they are legal under the current UK regulations.
You can ride them as long as you are a minimum of 14 years old and if they meet certain criteria.
There is no need for a license and/or tax, registration and insurance.
The bike must have pedals that can propel it forward and it must show either the power output or the manufacturer of the motor.
It must also show either the battery's voltage or the top speed of the bike.
The max power output from the motor is 250 Watts and it should not be able to propel the bike forward after it reaches 15,5 mph.
What are the requirements to ride an e-scooter?
You must have a Q category entitlement on your driving licence to use an e-scooter. if you have a full or provisional UK licence for AM, A or B categories it includes entitlement for the Q category. Any of these licences qualifies for using an e-scooter.
There is no need to show L plates if you have a provisional licence when using an e-scooter.
For overseas driving licences, you can use an e-scooter if:
- You have a full and valid licence from an EU or European Economic Area (EEA) country and so long it does not prohibit you from driving motorcycles or low-speed mopeds.
- You have a full and valid licence from another country that allows you to drive a small vehicle such as cars, mopeds, or motorcycles, and you entered the UK within the last 12 months.
An e-scooter must also be insured which at the moment is handled by the rental companies.
The recommendation is to use a cycle helmet although there is no legal requirement.
Can you ride an electric scooter on the road?
Privately owned e-scooters are illegal on public roads under current regulations. Public roads include pavements as well as cycle paths. However, With the introduction of the new Transport Bill, we might see a change shortly allowing for privately owned e-scooters to be used on public roads.
Rental scooters are allowed in those places where a trial rental period is in effect. As long as you have the Q category on your driver's licence you can ride them where it is allowed. Stay off the pavement on the rental scooter as this is a forbidden area to use.
Can you ride an electric scooter on the pavement?
No, it is illegal to ride on the pavement as it is classified as part of the public highway. The only exception would be if the pavement is privately owned and the owner gives permission to use it.
The e-scooter is actually classified as a "carriage" in the 1835 Highways Act which is the most up-to-date law relating to these issues. It states: "If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon."
This also applies to rental scooters which are only allowed on public roads (except motorways) and in cycle lanes. However, the rules set by the government, allow for local rule-makers to ban rental scooters on certain cycleways if they feel the need to do so.