A new report from the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has called for more clarity from government on the use of e-scooters on the UK’s roads and makes ten recommendations to improve safety for all.
The report, which took evidence from experts including senior lawyers, British Cycling and PACTS (the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety), said policy decisions are needed from government to legalise e-scooters and build a regulatory framework around their use by the public.
Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of ACSO, said that in the absence of a framework, “those involved in e-scooter accidents have to deal with legal grey areas. It is very difficult to know if they can be compensated for losses that arise from their accident with vehicles not officially allowed to even be on the roads. It makes the claims process too complex and impractical as e-scooter use rises. Legalisation should require at least third-party insurance for e-scooter riders so that the infrastructure of claims and injury management can be created to support them. Thousands of people are using these machines on our roads illegally; that needs to change, and fast.”
Maxwell Scott said there were 390 seriously injured and 960 slightly injured casualties involving e-scooters in 2021 (this compares to 129 and 354, respectively, in 2020). Some 82 per cent of e-scooter collisions involve privately-owned machines, which currently should only be used on private land.
Turning to the report’s recommendations, Maxwell Scott said they represent “a common sense approach to insuring, regulating and even encouraging e-scooters, realising that they are an increasingly common mode of transport, not least in our towns and cities.”
1) Legalise privately-owned e-scooters for use on public roads. The e-scooter genie is out of the bottle, so forcibly removing the hundreds of thousands of e-scooters ridden illegally on British roads is unworkable. Illegality means the authorities cannot improve road safety, and cannot address the potential advantages to the environment and everyday mobility that e-scooters offer.
2) Expand the e-scooter hire schemes to collect more data regarding safety. Adding more towns and cities (and, potentially, rural communities) to the hired e-scooter roadmap will improve understanding of e-scooter behaviour and accident data. Hire schemes’ geolocation technology is especially well-placed to monitor accident data.
3) Make data publicly available. This will allow organisations to study the impact of accidents on e-scooters and other road users, and the extent to which accidents are being caused by e-scooters.
4) Build better infrastructure to accommodate e-scooters. Roll out and adapt as necessary more cycle lanes and consider other innovations to the transport network to improve e-scooter rider safety. Uphold the ban on their use on pavements to protect pedestrians.
5) Educate road users on how to co-exist with e-scooters. Safety training programmes for e-scooter riders (which might include compulsory theory or practical testing) and changes to the Highway Code will help all road users ensure their own safety of and others while sharing road space with e-scooters.
6) Insure e-scooters. Accident data underlines the need for compulsory insurance. Failure to insure e-scooter riders risks a failure to compensate other road users for their injuries.
7) Register e-scooters. Devise a means of registering all e-scooters; for example, via licence plating or barcoding and/or by creating a central database of owners.
8) Introduce a minimum age for users. This is likely to be 16 to put e-scooters in line with age limits on small-displacement motorcycles.
9) A definitive legal speed limit. This is likely to be the current 15.5 mph restriction on hire scheme e-scooters. Impose criminal sanctions for illegal modifications that increase speeds beyond that.
10) Safety features and protective gear. Accident data may justify compulsory helmet-wearing and/or the introduction of artificial noise or bells, so that pedestrians can hear e-scooters more easily. Compulsory indicators, headlamps and minimum standards of construction are critical.
Maxwell Scott concluded: “Privately owned e-scooters will be part of the make-up of British roads for the foreseeable future and we should not pretend otherwise. It therefore seems inevitable that part of the solution is to legalise them in a way that ensures that they are ridden safely.”
About the report: The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) – e-scooters report was written by ACSO secondee Alex Diaz to assist the Department for Transport (DfT) as it considers the legislative agenda for e-scooters. A copy of the report is available from ACSO or by clicking this link.