Are electric scooters legal in the UK? The short answer is no, for now.. Although you can legally sell, buy and own electric scooters, it is currently illegal to drive them on public roads or trails. You can ride one on private land with permission from the owner, or in a test area (more on that later), but the law is pretty clear by the way: e-scooting is not allowed.

If pulled over by the police, you could receive a fixed penalty notice of €300, plus 6 points on your driver's license, and while that may seem surprising given the number of electric scooters you see in a typical city. Last summer, London police arrested more than 100 electric scooter operators in a single weekend.

But why are electric bikes different?

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Types of electric vehicles

Currently, electric scooters are classified as light personal electric vehicles (VLEP), a category that also includes cars and motorcycles, and requires licenses, fees, MOTs, signaling capabilities, registration plates, and visible red taillights. ELVs must also meet minimum construction requirements to be considered road legal.

On the other hand, pedal assisted electric bicycles are treated in the same way as normal bicycles and do not have to be registered, taxed or insured. However, you must be at least 14 years old to drive one and the motor must have a maximum power of 250 watts. The motor must not be able to propel the bicycle when traveling faster than 15.5 mph. Any electric bicycle that does not respect these rules is treated as an electric motorcycle or a moped.

Mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs are divided into two types: class two, which cannot be used on the road and have a maximum speed of 4 mph, and class three, which can be used on the road and have a 8 mph top speed. Class 3 vehicles must be registered and can only be driven by people over 14 years of age.


Electric bikes are treated the same as push bikes, as long as they meet certain criteria and are assisted by a pedal (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Electric Scooter Rental Programs

There have already been some small trials of electric scooters in the UK, including a long-running program operating in London's Olympic Park, but the government now plans to extend testing to any city or town in question.

These trials were originally scheduled to begin in 2021, but were brought forward after the coronavirus pandemic to lighten public transportation and encourage people to move more environmentally than driving.

Several electric scooter companies have confirmed that they are talking to local authorities in the UK about launching pilot projects.. According to CNBC, US companies Bird and Lime are making their arguments, as well as European startups Tier and Voi.

Although you have not yet chosen a provider, Milton Keynes is one of the first cities to confirm its participation in an electric scooter trial. The new Buckinghamshire town (which has also carried out extensive testing with self-contained "pods" for short trips) is particularly well suited to the project thanks to its system of red lanes, a network of dual-use biking and hiking trails that Provides enough space and a smooth surface for driving.

It remains to be seen how older cities, with narrow or cobbled streets, would fare, but we hope that the planned improvements in cycling infrastructure will translate into more manageable routes as well.

Bird and Lime electric scooters

Bird and Lime are among e-scooter rental companies in talks with local UK authorities (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Private scooters

It is not yet known if the tests will be limited to rental scooters. (so that local authorities know the speed and type of vehicles on their streets), or whether they will also allow people to drive private scooters.

There are certainly advantages to having your own scooter. Not only will it be cheaper in the long run with regular use, but it also means you won't have to worry about disinfecting your handlebars before you leave, something that would be difficult to manage with leased vehicles. Bird and Lime has suspended dozens of rental programs around the world for exactly this reason (but it's interesting to note that Spin says it has been asked to "increase" its rental services to fill the void left by public transport shortages). .

And then?

It seems like it will only be a matter of time before electric scooters are legalized in the UK, but there will certainly be rules regarding not only when and where you can ride, but also helmets, motor size and top speed. . While most electric scooters top out at 15 mph, some can hit 29 mph.

When e-scooters get the green light, it will surely be wiser to get yours from a British retailer (many of which already exist) so you can be sure they will and won't comply with applicable laws. Don't do it accidentally. End up with something that's classed as a moped, and you'll be covered by a proper warranty in case of problems.

We'll keep you posted when new tests are announced and more information is provided, so stay tuned.

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