Asked Santa for an E-Scooter this Christmas?
If an electric or 'e-scooter' is on your Christmas list, you'd better have a very big garden!
The potential benefits of reducing the cost of your commute, easing traffic congestion and the reduction of your carbon footprint are all reasons why e-scooters are becoming more popular.
E-scooters appear to be an ideal method of transport for the responsible user. It is a shame that under current legislation, it is illegal to ride e-scooters on the road or in a public place.
While some manufacturers make more effort than others to draw this fact to a potential purchaser's attention, others are failing miserably, leaving many people genuinely unaware.
Why are E-Scooters illegal?
They are not illegal to ride on private land with the land owner's permission. However, roads and public places are a different matter.
S .143 Road Traffic Act 1988 creates an offence where a person uses a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, without a policy of insurance in place to cover third party risks.
The definition of a motor vehicle is set out in s.185 of Road Traffic Act 1988, which says that a motor vehicle is a mechanically propelled vehicle, intended or adapted for use on roads.
This definition of a motor vehicle has been explored in several cases involving motorised scooters, one of which is DPP v Saddington. That case specifically dealt with whether the scooter was intended or adapted for use on the public roads. The Supreme Court determined that it was a motor vehicle, notwithstanding the lack of an efficient braking system, pneumatic tyres, clutch, lights or mirrors etc. As such, the rider required a driving licence and insurance for the scooter.
Insurance for electric scooters
At the time of writing, it is not possible to get insurance for e-scooters that meets the requirements of s.143. Neither is the use of them covered by car insurance, as the scooter itself does not have its own policy.
At the very least, this means that anyone riding one on the road or in a public place faces an allegation of driving without insurance (penalty 6-8 points or disqualification),
Do the police enforce this law?
Yes. I have recently acted for a client who faced such an allegation.
As a result of my client's genuine naivety, he faced a six month totting up ban. He was understandably shocked to learn his driving licence was at risk for riding what he considered to be a toy. For the avoidance of doubt, he was riding responsibly on the left-hand side of the road, in the daytime, while wearing a bike helmet. The maximum speed of the e-scooter was 15kph (less than 10mph).
He did nothing wrong apart from using the scooter. After pointing out his error, the kindly policeman impounded his 'vehicle'.
We made representations to CPS, asking them to review the case and apply the public interest test. CPS wrote back saying they considered the circumstances were "too serious" to withdraw the allegation. They were determined to have their day in court.
Fortunately, my client did not receive a totting ban, but he was disqualified for 14 days to avoid the usual 6-month ban.
What about Electric Bikes?
There is an exemption for electrically assisted pedal cycles which means they do not require insurance. Electric bikes are far bigger than scooters, are often capable of speeds of far higher speeds and can do more damage in a collision.
It is not uncommon to see push-bikes operated at speeds above 20mph, yet these are perfectly legal. Given the similarities between bikes and scooters, it is difficult to see why CPS considered this prosecution to be in the public interest.
Is there a market for e-scooters?
The manufacturers have no incentive to educate the public. If people become aware that the police are prosecuting the public for using them, will anyone buy one?
How many people have private land large enough to warrant an e-scooter, especially in London where their use is becoming most prevalent?