We’ve been saved from writing a long blog about this by the well-timed ABI press note from earlier today, which was picked up in this report in the Mirror and by other media outlets. The reality is that the criminal sanctions for the illegal use of privately owned e-scooters on roads and pavements could very easily see buyers getting a lot more than they bargained for when they bought the item.
Unfortunately, confusing messaging about e-scooter use is the norm. For example, in a report earlier in the month, the Independent reviewed this year’s best Black Friday e-scooter deals, noting that one model’s “pneumatic tyres can tackle even some of the worst, pothole-peppered roads” and another one’s waterproof qualities made it suitable “for zooming to the office in all manner of wet weather conditions.” Granted, the very last paragraph of the review spelled out the illegality and the criminal sanctions but given the direct answer “Yes” to the subheading “Are electric scooters legal in the UK?” you do wonder just how many readers and prospective scooter buyers bothered to read right to the end.
The estimated half a million plus privately owned e-scooter ‘fleet’ dwarfs the 26,000 or so legally available to hire. The e-scooter genie already appears far too widespread to be capable of being put back into the bottle of existing road traffic regulations [horse and stable door metaphors are also available] and the topic is crying out for a clear, intelligible and realistic new framework. We may just see some pointers towards that from the DfT by the end of the year.
Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs, BLM
I was pleased to chair our e-scooters webinar on Monday and note that we had close to 200 logging on. Thanks to those who joined us, to colleagues from BLM who took part and to our events team for sorting out the online arrangements.
You can view a recording of the ‘E-Scooters: getting you up to speed’ webinar here.
Claims issues surrounding scooter use are at a very early stage – but cases are already out there – so we focused on exploring the rationale behind the government-authorised trials and the regulatory points that can’t be avoided once the trials have concluded next year. The awkward question of whether or not to legalise the more widespread use of e-scooters really will have to be addressed then.
We also examined some of the framework governing highway maintenance and inspection and how scooter riding might fit in. This is clearly a live issue for those local authorities currently hosting trials and could assume greater significance if the ban on the use of privately-owned scooters on roads was to be relaxed.
We received quite a few questions on possible options for insuring liabilities arising from scooter use, along with several about illegality defences and contributory negligence arguments.
As well as continuing the dialogue with those who attended on Monday, we plan to host a further webinar (or hybrid event) in the New Year, looking at the regulatory framework for e-scooters more widely. Please keep an eye out for details of that on our usual BLM channels.
Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs
E-scooters have attracted considerable press attention throughout the pandemic. Some see them as a clean transport solution to urban congestion and that is certainly among the reasons for the UK government introducing the current e-scooter hire scheme trials. On the downside, one source has estimated that e-scooters will be involved in up to 200,000 accidents this year (Nextbase, in July 2021) and others report they are used as getaway vehicles for criminals (perhaps displacing thefts/mugging by moped riders?). As well as these risks, there is also potential for new product liability litigation arising from defective scooters.