Only those living under a rock could have missed the rise in London’s electric scooter users, as the vehicles, once seen as a child’s toy, have taken over roads and pavements.
However, the legal status of the gadgets is questionable, as is whether they need to be insured.
The Metropolitan Police insists the devices do need cover and have been seizing them since April for not having the equivalent of car insurance to pay for any crash damage.
A spokesman for the force would not reveal how many had been confiscated, but said: “The insurance [needed] is the same as car insurance or motorbike insurance as you have a mechanically-propelled vehicle on the road.”
The police argument is that the devices have a motor, and so, under the terms of the Road Traffic Act 1988, need insurance. The problem is, insurers won't cover them.
Despite their ubiquity, electric scooters are not legally allowed to be on the roads. Riding an electric scooter anywhere other than on private land with the landowner's permission is a crime punishable by six points on a driving licence and a £300 fine.
As such, insurers will not protect the vehicles for road use, as they refuse to cover anything illegal. Doing so is known as a “moral hazard” in insurance parlance, as it would effectively encourage people to break the law.
A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: “It’s not currently legal to use an e-scooter on public roads and therefore it is not possible to insure them for road use.”
It seems that the police see uninsured road use as worse than the lower-level disorder of using these scooters on the pavement, to which they are more likely to turn a blind eye.
Owners can cover them against theft as part of their home insurance, but not for being ridden on public roads.
However, the tide could be changing for electric scooters, which might be approved for use on roads in the future and would then, presumably, be insurable.
A Government consultation in January on making transport safer, greener and more reliable mentioned the devices, as well as electric hoverboards and skateboards.
It said that “regulation was preventing the use of these modes [of transport] in the UK and highlighted that where they were permitted in other countries, they were playing an increasingly important role”.
Last month TV presenter and Youtuber Emily Hartridge became the first person in the UK to be killed while riding one of the scooters when she was struck by a lorry in Battersea.