electric scooters - are they legal in the UK?
Electric scooters are getting closer to being fully legalised on public roads, but UK laws on e-scooters aren't always clear. Here is a summary of the key facts around e-scooter UK law:
Are e-scooters legal?
In the United Kingdom, it is legal to purchase, sell, own and maintain an e-scooter. However, it is illegal to ride these scooters on public roads. You can only ride privately-owned e-scooters on private land, with the landowner's permission.
However, this is set to change in the near future. The Government has announced plans to fully legalize the use of e-scooters as part of a new Transport Bill.
Rental e-scooters are permitted for use on the public highway, subject to local rules and regulations, usually within a certain geographical area (sometimes called ‘geo-zoning’).
Lime Electric Scooter Hire in London
Can I ride an e-scooter on the road?
It is currently forbidden to ride an e-scooter on a public road (roads, sidewalks, or cycle paths). However, the new Transport Bill may soon legalize private e-scooter use on roads.
It is legal to ride a rental e-scooter where there is a trial rental scheme in place (subject to local rules and regulations) and having a ‘Q’ category on your full or provisional driving licence. You can ride a privately-owned e-scooter on private land with the landowner’s permission without a full or provisional driving licence.
E-scooters are classed as "powered transporters," which also includes Segways, hoverboards, and powered unicycles. There is no special legislation regulating powered transporters; instead, they fall under the same regulations as motor vehicles.
The government is trialing many e-scooter rental schemes across the country with a bid to find a way to safely legalise e-scooters as an everyday mode of transport.
Can I ride an electric scooter on the pavement?
A pavement, which is classified as part of the public highway, means it is illegal to ride an e-scooter on it (unless you have the owner's permission). "In fact, the 1835 Highways Act is the most up-to-date law that relates to this, effectively classifying an e-scooter as a 'carriage'."
"If any person shall willfully ride or 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."
It is also illegal to use a rental e-scooter on the pavement – these can only be used on the road (except motorways) and in cycle lanes, although government guidelines do provide leeway for local lawmakers to prohibit rental e-scooter use on certain cycle ways if they wish.
Officers in London seizing electric scooters
Do I need a licence to ride an electric scooter?
To use a rental e-scooter legally, you need to hold a valid full or provisional driving licence with the ‘Q’ category listed. Driving licenses with the categories ‘AM’, ‘A’, or ‘B’ include the ‘Q’ category.
Privately-owned e-scooters remain illegal to use on public highways, even if you have a licence.
Will e-scooter laws change soon?
While the current law is certainly outdated, the Transport Bill (announced in May 2022) is set to regulate privately-owned e-scooter use in the year ahead.
Previously, in July 2018, the Department of Transport (DfT) began a "The Future of Mobility" consultation to assess new transport technologies - including e-scooters - and how the UK's infrastructure and existing laws may need to change in order to accommodate them.
Bird set up its innovative trial at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London which enabled locals and visitors to ride rental e-scooters in the area, and in the summer of 2020 the UK Government gave guidance on rental e-scooter schemes so that local councils could work with rental providers to set them up across the country.
The Covid-19 epidemic, perhaps, sped up this shift by making it more essential to discover more efficient, hygienic, healthy, and environmentally responsible personal transportation solutions.
You can find more information on the UK government website here.
Richard Corbett, the head of Bird’s U.K. office.
Where can I ride a rental electric scooter?
There are 32 regions operating rental schemes across many of the main urban areas of the UK, including:
Bournemouth and Poole
Buckinghamshire (Aylesbury and High Wycombe)
Cheshire West and Chester (Chester)
Essex (Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester)
Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and Gloucester)
London (participating boroughs)
North and West Northamptonshire (Northampton, Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough)
North Devon (Barnstaple)
North Lincolnshire (Scunthorpe)
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)
Why are e-bikes legal when e-scooters are not?
Electric bikes are legal in the United Kingdom as "electrically-assisted pedal cycles" (EAPCs). The UK government has set out certain regulations that these bike types must follow.
You can find our range of electric bikes here.
Privately-owned e-scooters (powered transporters) are not governed by specific laws yet, but there are plans included in the Transport Bill to create a new vehicle category for powered light transport vehicles – which could also encompass electric-powered two-wheeled delivery vehicles.
In the future, e-scooters (both privately owned and rental) may help clean up our cities and environment by shifting attention away from polluting vehicles and congested public transportation usage.
We are in favor of the existing trial rental programs and the Transport Bill, which we anticipate will develop in due course. Keep an eye on this post - we'll keep you updated with the most recent news about e-scooter legalization as soon as it happens.