Government ‘promises decision’ on legal status of e-scooters following trials

Understanding the positive and negative impacts of electric scooters from the data and evidence of current on-road trials will be key to the decision about whether they will be legalised, the Government has told the Transport Committee.

The Transport Committee has published the Government’s Response to its report, E-scooters: pavement nuisance or transport innovation? In its October report, the Committee called for ‘swift action’ to legalise the use of private e-scooters on roads and cycle lanes.

Around 30 trials of rental e-scooters are underway across the UK, running until autumn 2021. The Department for Transport has said it will use this information, the Committee’s report and further findings from wider public stakeholder engagement to inform a decision on whether and how e-scooters might be legalised. The monitoring and evaluation contract has been awarded and conversations with several external stakeholders such as vulnerable road users are already taking place.

The use of e-scooters on pavements was of prime concern for witnesses during the inquiry. Agreeing with the Committee’s call for robust enforcement measures, today’s response makes clear that pavement use will remain illegal. The Department has said it is monitoring measures being used by operators in the trials including camera sensors, onboard sensor devices and geo-fencing technology. This can also reduce the hazard of street clutter.

Trial e-scooters are classified as ‘motor vehicles’ and users require some form of driving licence. The Government will consider the evidence from the trials on the safety of users and non-users before reviewing this decision.

The Committee’s report concluded that e-scooters have the potential to be a low-cost, accessible and environmentally friendly alternative to the private car. The Department has said that encouraging people to make the switch for some short journeys will be a key measure of success. If trials are successful and the Government chooses to legalise e-scooters, environmental sustainability will be a key consideration.

“When we launched our inquiry, we asked whether this new mode of transport was a pavement nuisance or transport innovation,” said chair of the Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman MP. “The answer is that e-scooters are both.

“We are pleased that the Department is putting a premium on collecting data and evidence from the trials and from other countries. We maintain our view that 18 months is a suitable timeframe to analyse the results of e-scooter trials and implement any decisions. This takes us to April 2022 and we urge the Government does not lose momentum on this. We are in a pandemic and the use of public transport has reduced considerably. As we go into Christmas, we are mindful that the sales and use of private e-scooters – which are still illegal – continue to rise, with continued negative impacts on pedestrians and disabled people.

“Encouraging people out of cars for short journeys and on to e-scooters will be worthwhile if they are environmentally sustainable in their design and the processes used to recharge them. We look forward to hearing further evidence on their environmental impact and would encourage the Department to set targets for modal shift beyond the trial period. We will continue to monitor the Department’s progress through our inquiry into Reforming public transport after the pandemic.”

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