Electric vehicles are taking the world by storm. However, a vibrant part of the rise of e-mobility is micro-mobility, which involves the use of lightweight, low-speed vehicles like scooters for short-distance transport. Scooters have been around for a long time in the UK, however, electrified scooters, or e-scooters, are relatively recent innovations.
What do you need to know before hopping on an electric scooter and hitting the road in the UK? This article explores the state of electric scooters in the UK.
Why Do People Ride Electric Scooters?
Electric scooters are attractive because they are a cheaper and faster way to move about. Supporters claim they are cleaner, low-carbon alternatives for people who don’t want to ride bicycles.
Are Electric Scooters Legal In The Uk?
The first question to be answered is whether you are legally allowed to own an electric scooter in the UK.
The answer is yes, you can legally buy, rent or otherwise own an electric scooter. You can sell electric scooters too.
The next question is, can you legally ride an electric scooter on UK roads?
This is where the law takes a different view. It is illegal to use an electric scooter on public roads. You can only operate your electric scooter on private property.
However, there is an exception that allows you to ride an electric scooter in public; if you rent an electric scooter as part of a recognised trial scheme. More on this later.
Your electric scooter is treated just like other vehicles, meaning the laws governing the use of cars or motorcycles apply. As result, you can’t ride your electric scooter in the UK on pavements, footpaths, bicycle lanes, or within pedestrianized zones.
You must also ensure your electric scooter has license plates, indicators, and rear lights. You are required to comply with tax and insurance requirements.
As you might have guessed, the electric scooters that are sold do not satisfy any of the requirements above. Only the ones available for rent qualify.
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Where Can You Ride An Electric Scooter In Public In The UK?
Despite being legally able to ride a rented electric scooter in public, restrictions apply. Only 32 cities are carrying out electric scooter trials today in the UK. Some of the cities are Bournemouth and Poole, Buckinghamshire (Aylesbury and High Wycombe), Cambridge. Cheshire West and Chester (Chester), Copeland (Whitehaven), Derby, Essex (Basildon, Chelmsford, Colchester, and Clacton), Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and Gloucester), Great Yarmouth, Kent (Canterbury), Liverpool, London, etc.
Within these cities, you can ride your rented electric scooter only on roads and cycle paths that are insured by the operators. You can buy electric scooters that can reach speeds up to 70 mph, however, the legal limit is 15.5 mph.
Manufacturers of the ones used the trials employ software to limit both the top speed and the places you can ride your electric scooter to remain under the law. Some of the operators participating in the London trials further restrict speed to 8 mph in some areas designated as “go-slow area.”
What Happens If You Ride An Electric Scooter Illegally In Public In The UK?
Riders caught by the law will be handled similarly to other drivers that break the law. You could be fined up to £300 and accrue up to six penalty points on your driving license. For more serious offences, you could lose your license and even get your electric scooter impounded by the police.
What Are Other Conditions For Riding An Electric Scooter In Public In The UK?
You need a driving license to ride an electric scooter in public in the UK. All the trial schemes ask that your license have a Q entitlement. If your license is under any of the categories AM, A and B, you are legally covered.
For overseas-based riders, the driving license must show they are authorized to drive a small vehicle, such as a car or motorbike.
In London, you are required to complete an online course before you hit the road on an electric scooter for the first time.
Helmets are recommended by the Department for Transport but not mandatory. However, if you must wear one, it must be the correct size, conform to current regulations, and be securely fastened. The Department also advises that you wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing to increase your visibility by other road users.
Don’ts Of Riding An Electric Scooter In Public In The UK
If you drive a car, many of the don’ts will be familiar. For example, you must not operate a mobile phone when using an electric scooter and drunk riding is prohibited.
There are additional rules that are peculiar to riding electric scooters. For example, only one person can ride on an electric scooter, towing any item is forbidden, no room for hanging items on the handlebars, etc.
Preparing Your Electric Scooter For The First Ride
If the scooter belongs to you, then you have to prepare it and yourself for the first ride. Like everything else, riding a scooter requires learning. It is advisable to borrow a scooter to learn how to ride but if you own it, charge it up as much as possible. Practice in an open space with little traffic, like an empty parking lot. You will make mistakes but learn to balance properly and accelerate, slow down, or stop completely.
During and after your learning stage, use a helmet even if it is not mandatory where you live. Use knee and elbow pads as you are likely to fall during your practice.
Ensure you wear suitable clothing. Free flowing garments may be dangerous as they could get caught bypassing objects and cause accidents.
Learn to always pay attention to the battery level so that you don’t get caught with a flat battery. However, most importantly, note where electric scooters are allowed in your city so you don’t break the law and face punishments.
Charging Your Electric Scooter
If your electric scooter belongs to you, charging it is your responsibility. This has to be done as frequently as you use the scooter. How long you spend charging depends on the size of the battery and the manufacturer’s method of charging. The scooter will likely come with a charger and you will find a port for it somewhere on the base. Simply plug in the cable to the mains and turn on the power and charging will start.
Some models come with removable batteries, allowing you more freedom as to where you can charge. You might also get a spare battery so that you can pop in a fully charged battery while you take the spent one for charging.
Maintaining Your Electric Scooter
Like everything mechanical, your electric scooter requires maintenance to keep it working smoothly. The most natural maintenance is cleaning. As the scooter is very close to the ground, it picks up dirt easily that could damage the braking system, levers, scooter tires, shock absorbers, etc.
Whether you can wash your scooter deeply depends on the IP rating, which determines how easily dust or water could seep into the sensitive parts. However, most scooters can be washed or rode in the rain.
To prevent the build-up of dust and grime, keep to a monthly regular schedule of washing. Focus mostly on the wheels, brakes, and deck area. For those areas, put some warm water and/or cleaning solution in a spray water bottle and apply to wash off the dirt. However, remember to keep the battery compartment sealed. Wipe down with a microfiber clothe instead of leaving the solution to dry off.
Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the handle grips, LCD lights and controller.
You can check for loose bolts and screws, cables, disc pads, etc, at the same time to tighten them. Also, check that the tire pressure is still within the recommended range if the tires are pneumatic.
Read our guide how you should take care of your electric scooter and maintenance of the batter.
How Much Does It Cost To Ride An Electric Scooter In The UK?
The charges by operators vary but usually, it will cost you £1 to unlock an electric scooter with a smartphone app. After that, you could be charged a per-minute fee of 14 p to 20 p.
If you own your electric scooter, which you cannot ride on public roads, you will be responsible for the cost of charging the battery. However, the cost won’t make your energy bill shoot up as a typical electric scooter with a 400 Wh battery costs £0.08 to charge to full capacity off-peak and £0.0094 on-peak.
Will You Ever Be Able To Ride Your Own Electric Scooter In Public In The UK?
There are bodies or organisations pushing for electric scooters to be made legal in the UK. The Transport Committee of MPs, for example, has requested for electric scooters to be permitted on roads, but not pavements. The London Cycle Campaign also campaigns for electric scooters to be given the same status as larger vehicles.