Where can I ride an electric scooter and do I need insurance?

06 Oct 2020

Despite becoming a common sight in towns and cities across Britain, the UK is the last major European country where it is still illegal to use privately-owned electronic scooters or “e-scooters” anywhere but on private land.

The Department for Transport launched a rental trial in May 2020 to explore the impact of e-scooters on our roads. The Transport Committee has this week extended the trial to additional areas of the country, including city centres, suburbs and market towns, to investigate the impact of e-scooters on other transport usage, safety and the environment. The results of these trials will be used to consider the legislation required to facilitate the safe use of e-scooters for riders, other road users and in particular pedestrians.

The Government’s maximum speed limit for the e-scooter rental trials is 15.5mph, although it has been suggested that local authorities should have discretion to determine speed appropriate to their area. Local authorities will also be tasked with ensuring that anti-social use of e-scooters on pavements is heavily penalised and, if the use of private e-scooters is legalised, robust enforcement measures will need to be put in place. Clearly, an e-scooter travelling on a pavement has potential to cause serious harm to both rider and pedestrian, and the Department for Transport will be monitoring the number and types of collisions during the trials to determine future insurance requirements.

Do I need insurance for an e-scooter?

It is compulsory during the rental trial for all e-scooters to have motor insurance – this is currently arranged by the rental operator. Stakeholders, however, consider an e-scooter more akin to a bike, rather than a moped, and are concerned that mandatory insurance for e-scooter users will be “burdensome” and “discourage take-up”. Although the statistics are low, even push bikes are not beyond causing damage or death, hence many cyclists do now voluntarily take out third party Public Liability insurance which gives peace of mind and guards against claims made by others for accident damage or injury caused by the cyclist or their bike. If legalised, it has to be imagined that the market will at least be widened to include voluntary insurance for e-scooters also.

In a report released this week called “E-scooters: pavement nuisance or transport innovation?” the Transport Committee point to the e-scooter as a potential low cost, accessible and environmentally friendly alternative to the car, and the Department for Transport is being encouraged to legalise the use of privately owned e-scooters on roads and cycle lanes within the next 18 months. At the moment helmets are not compulsory, although they are encouraged. An increase in claims from riders, other road users and pedestrians alike has to be anticipated if e-scooters are legalised and widely used on roads and cycle lanes.

Bethany Blamire is a specialist Insurance and Regulatory Solicitor and Partner based at our Southampton office. Bethany can be contacted on 023 8082 0549 or by email to bethany.blamire@trethowans.com.

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Bethany Blamire

Partner