Electric scooters will soon become much more commonplace on British roads. From July 4, trials of rented escooters will be allowed across the UK.
With Britons concerned about contracting the coronavirus on public transport and legislators keen to maintain social distancing, e-scooters could help ease some of the burden.
As such the Department of Transport has fast-tracked - and dramatically broadened - its trials of e-scooters.
What are the new laws around e-scooters?
Under the new rules people will be allowed to rent e-scooters on British public roads legally for the first time from Saturday.
Users will be permitted to travel along roads, cycle tracks, and bike lanes but not pavements or motorways.
The scooters will also be required to be covered by a motor vehicle insurance policy by the renting company, according to the Department of Transport.
In addition, users of the e-scooters will need to have a driving license of some description, either full or provisional.
The Government will not force users to undertake a mandatory training course but it does recommend it, similar to the system around electrically assisted pedal cycles. Helmets are also not mandatory but recommended.
Scooters will also be limited to a top speed of 15.5mph, a pace that has drawn criticism from some MPs and other concerned parties.
Users will also have to be 16 and over and those without a license can apply to a provisional to use a trial scooter.
Where can I hire one and where am I legally allowed to ride one?
E-scooter trials were originally going to be limited to four “future transport zones” but it has since been dramatically widened as the Government looks to increase options beyond public transport during the pandemic.
The scooters could be used in Portsmouth and Southampton, Derby and Nottingham, the West Midlands, and the West of England Combined Authority - which is made up of Bristol, Bath, and the Northern Arc.
The trials have now been broadened out to all local areas across the country. But it remains up to local authorities to start their own trials. Authorities that do will receive support front he Department of Transport around what controls need to be put in place such as the number of vehicles permitted in a given area.
Companies like Bird, Lime, Spin, Wind, Voi, Ginger, and Dott are all expected to look to offer rental services as soon as possible.
Currently, users can avail of e-scooters on privately-owned land, such as the Olympic Park in London.
Are they safe?
Like all near-silent modes of transportation, electric scooters pose a danger to pedestrians, road users, and the users of the scooters themselves.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People has also decried them as a “real and genuine threat to blind people”. Some MPs have also raised concerns around the 15.5mph speed limit, claiming that less than 10mph would be much safer.
Already, the UK has had an escooter-related death. Television presenter Emily Hartridge died last year while riding a scooter on a public highway in Battersea.
There is scant official data on the safety of e-scooters but one report from news site Quartz in February suggested that as many as 29 people had died from incidents involved e-scooters since 2018.
Can I buy my own scooter?
Britons can buy their own e-scooters either online or in-store now but using it on a public road or highway would result in an offence. Only rented e-scooters will be permitted under the trials. Prices on the scooters typically range from £100 to up to £1,000.
Those found using their own private e-scooter on public land could face a fixed-penalty notice of £300 as well as six penalty points on their licence.