Every now and then, I'm noticing more and more electric scooters. The other day I saw a ten-ish year old riding one on the pavement, and I'm seeing people use them in the bike lanes in town. It's rare, but the awareness of them is leading to a very slow gain in popularity. This is fantastic, as I'd be very excited to see them gain adoption in our country.
Unfortunately due to a law from the 1800's which carries into effect today, they are illegal to ride on the pavement. Interestingly enough, for the same reason that a moped cannot do it either.
To add to the problem, legislation deems them a Personal Light Electric Vehicle or 'PLEV'. As such they are deemed a vehicle, and subject to taxation, permits, inspection and so forth - especially on public roads.
This all makes sense.
I have no problem with regulation, rule and enforcement around electric scooters. I've ridden them in four countries now, where they are legal, and each time the drivers were respectful of both locals and tourists flying around them on two wheels. However, the riders were not often respectful or safe around traditional road users. These quickly puts the rider and car/truck driver at risk - of course, mostly the scooter rider. In most cases you only need to tick a few boxes whilst signing up to the pay-as-you-go services to get an account, but the advice is seldom followed. If you've seen people riding them in holiday hot-spots, how many were wearing helmets?
There is the added problem that all the scooter start-ups have littered the pavements with them. Whilst I personally don't notice them too much, I know others hate it. I stood outside the Brandenburg Tor in Berlin a few months back, and there was a sea of scooters which did spoil the atmosphere a touch.
My concern is that being the culture that we are (British), the government, regulators, concerned parents or whoever it may be will campaign to ban them entirely. This would be the worst possible position to take. We have enough trouble with congestion on the roads and pollution as it is. It would be amazing if the commuters who use a car simply as a method of getting from A to B were in a position to reduce their footprint on the road by 9 times. The width of one car on the road would allow for at least three riders to go along side by side, and most cars are at least three scooters long. Think of all the driveways freed up, and curbsides vacant. You can't drag a car inside, but a scooter can sit in your front porch. The folding ones are even suitable for those who live in apartments.
In my view the scooters should fall under more or less the same category (and receive similar treatment) as Mopeds/Petrol Scooters. Many of the rules around them would solve a variety of the scares and issues caused by electric scooters.
- In order to own one, the 'vehicle' needs to be registered and have a designated owner.
- You have passed a test - the minimum for a moped is a CBT which is a days-long training on roadcraft and costs £90 - a sensible precaution and basic barrier to stop people harming themselves and others.
- Safety equipment must be worn (a helmet at minimum).
- Annual safety and functionality inspections (MOT)
- Any violation of regular traffic law should be dealt with just as it would be for a moped, including points on license.
- Display a small license plate (in regards to the above point).
- It should incur or be registered for tax. Mopeds are £15 but I'd argue electric scooters go free.
- You park/dock them in prescribed areas only, or be liable for a fine - just like a motorcycle or car.
- You must be insured. If a scooter hit a parked car the damage caused would be slightly one-way, but scratched paint is scratched paint.
I seriously hope that in the months to come, as the rate of adoption grows in parallel to busybodies making it their business to call out the scooter riders or 'ban them', that sensible action is taken. A green, fun and efficient mode of transport shouldn't be black-holed just because we as a society (and our government) aren't prepared to take some fundamentally basic steps to enable the new technology.