E-scooters: pavement nuisance or transport innovation? Contents

4Accessibility of e-scooters

36.E-scooters have the potential to be a viable mode of transport for a wide range of people wishing to make shorter journeys. We heard some specific concerns around the risks of rental schemes not being accessible to the widest possible demographic. We also heard different views around whether e-scooter users should be required to hold a driving licence and have insurance. We examine these issues below.

Social inclusion

37.We were told that e-scooters have the potential to improve people’s transport options, including for people who find it difficult to walk or cycle, and for people who live in areas that are underserved by public transport.54 Taur Technologies, a British-owned engineering company that is developing an e-scooter, told us that e-scooters have potential to “allow people with lesser mobility, as well as those living and working in areas poorly served by public transport, to get around more easily.”55 Pure Electric, an electric mobility retailer, also highlighted a number of societal benefits of e-scooters, saying that they provide a low-cost accessible transport option for people who can’t afford or access a car or who don’t have access to reliable public transport. It also suggested that low cost mobility options such as e-scooters could help certain people access a wider range of employment and education opportunities.56

38.However, we also heard concerns that without careful consideration, e-scooter rental schemes may not be as inclusive as intended.57 Sustrans highlighted that rental schemes may target more affluent city centre areas and therefore would not be as accessible to those in deprived or outer city neighbourhoods.58 Professor Anable told us that some of the most promising areas for e-scooter include less dense suburbs and market town-type settings, where alternative transport is not as readily available and transport hubs are further away. When speaking about the role of e-scooters in encouraging a switch away from car use, Professor Anable also said there was a need to focus on “longer-distance routes between small towns and from suburbs to outer town, and not get into the urban bubble mindset.”59

39.E-scooter rental operators told us that they have been in discussions with several local authorities across the UK about establishing trials.60 Voi told us it was exploring plans in Barnstable in North Devon, which had a population of 30,000 people: it believed rental e-scooter schemes “really can work for small market towns in addition to larger cities.” Voi also highlighted that, since they are dockless, e-scooter rental schemes require minimal infrastructure to establish.61

40.The Government’s e-scooter guidance for local areas and rental operators states that all local areas in England, Scotland and Wales can consider participating in e-scooter rental trials.62 The Minister informed us that for the trials a “relatively large number of authorities that represent a broad spread of our country are interested in taking part. […] We want these new forms of transport, if they are beneficial and safe, to be available to everybody, whether they live in a city, a town or indeed a rural area. […] We have definitely designed the trials with that in mind.”63

41.It is essential that the Government’s rental e-scooter trials are accessible to a wide range of people and take place in a diverse set of locations. This includes city centres but also suburban areas and market towns where other transport options are not as readily available. This would also allow valuable data to be gathered about the effectiveness of rental e-scooters in a variety of settings.

42.We recommend that the Department continues to maintain close oversight of the locations of the rental trials and ensures that, when approving bids for new schemes, there is a good geographical spread around the UK and a balance in population density. The Department should actively reach out to local authorities in less populated areas if it receives a lack of bids for schemes in such areas.

Driving licence requirement

43.During the trials, rental e-scooters will continue to be classed as motor vehicles, meaning the following two requirements in primary legislation will continue to apply:

44.The Government kept these requirements in place in order for the trials to be fast-tracked.65 Removing the requirement for e-scooter rental users to have driving licences and insurance would have required changes to primary legislation, which could not have been done speedily. When asked about the requirement for driving licences, the Secretary of State told the House of Commons:

They will, I am afraid, in the first place be available to those with driving or provisional licences. That is not through desire, but because of a quirk in the law—we are tackling a law from, I think, 1880, which, with great foresight, banned e-scooters long before they were invented.66

45.The Department is considering the long-term requirements for e-scooters (and other forms of micro-mobility) as part of its Future of Transport Regulatory Review. One policy option in the consultation is to consider treating micro-mobility vehicles “in a similar way to electric bikes with greater regulation in some areas”. E-bike users do not require a driving licence. Alternatively, the Department is also exploring whether micro-mobility users could be “required to hold a licence, or to complete user training, or both, before being able to use the vehicles; or holders of other licence categories being able to use the vehicles”.67 The Department has said it plans to use the rental trials to help come to a decision on this issue.68

46.In most countries where e-scooter use is permitted, users are not required to hold a driving licence. In Germany, for example. e-scooter users must have insurance and the vehicle must be registered, but a driving licence is not required.69 Jurisdictions that do require users to hold a valid motorcycle or driving licence in order to use scooters include Israel, Korea, and the Australian state of New South Wales.70

47.Some witnesses supported the requirement for e-scooter users to hold a driving licence.71 The Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) said that a driving licence requirement for rental e-scooter users was the “minimum standard needed to provide accountability and enable proper enforcement of safety rules”.72 However, other witnesses expressed concern that a requirement for a driving licence was disproportionate and may limit uptake.73 We heard it could also be a barrier for certain groups in society. E-scooter operator Bird told us:

[…] the concern is around the driving licence limiting the uptake of these types of vehicles. For example, statistics show that black and Asian people are much less likely to hold a licence. Younger riders […] are again less likely to hold a licence. Women are less likely to hold a licence. We do not want to introduce those barriers.74

48.Professor Anable told us that the greatest merit of e-scooters as a mode of transport is “for those who do not have a driving licence and perhaps do not aspire to have one”. For this reason, she also said that the Government’s rental trials “may not be representative of the mainstream consumer down the line”.75 Lime said that for trials to succeed and provide a sustainable basis for scooter operations in the future, they must closely replicate commercially viable market conditions and be usable by as many of the public as possible.76 This view was shared by other e-scooter operators who called for the licence requirement to be removed in the longer term should e-scooters be legalised, with some commenting they should be regulated similarly to bikes and e-bikes.77

49.The Minister told us that the Department had not yet made a policy decision on the requirement for a driving licence. She said she had an “open mind” on the matter. She accepted, however, that the driving licence requirement would create a barrier for some people:

We know that there are certain inclusion issues around driving licence holders. For example, we know that an average of 74% of people aged 17 and over have a driving licence. In and of itself that is not entirely representative of the whole population. If we introduce a new mode of transport, we want everyone to benefit from it.78

She reiterated that the decision for users to require driving licences during the trials was “made to proceed quickly in response to the Covid pandemic”.79

50.It is unfortunate that, due to a legal technicality, users of rental e-scooters in the Government’s trials are required to have a driving licence. People without driving licences ought to be a key target demographic for the rental schemes, yet they are excluded. We believe the rental schemes should be accessible to the widest possible groups of people, particularly given the context of the pandemic. We are also concerned that the driving licence requirement will result in the trials not being as representative as they should have been.

51.Should the Government legalise e-scooters following the trials, users should not be required to have a driving licence either for rental schemes or private use. This would be consistent with practice in most other places around the world.

Insurance requirement

52.As described above, e-scooters in the Government’s rental scheme trials need to be covered by a motor vehicle insurance policy. The Government has said the insurance will be provided by rental scheme operators.80 Following the trials, the precise classification of e-scooters in future law would determine insurance requirements. If they continued to be classified in a similar way to a “motor vehicle” then they would need insurance on the roads and in public spaces, but if they were classified in a similar way to a bicycle then they would not. There is a broader open question as to whether riders of micro-mobility devices will need to have insurance as a result of the European Court of Justice Vnuk judgement on the Motor Insurance Directive.81

53.E-scooter insurance requirements vary between different countries. For rental schemes in other countries, e-scooter operators usually offer limited liability insurance, but also make riders sign rental agreements whereby the customer accepts responsibility for any accident.82 For privately owned e-scooters in Germany, the vehicle must be type-approved by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority and there is a mandatory requirement for riders to have insurance. This is done through the purchase of an annual ‘insurance sticker’, which is displayed on the vehicle.83 Similarly, in the Netherlands, e-scooters are classified in the same way as mopeds and must have insurance to operate.84 In India, e-scooters do not require insurance providing they have certain power and speed restrictions.85

54.We received mixed evidence on the requirement for e-scooters to have insurance. Some witnesses said that insurance was necessary to protect against the risk of harm that may be caused to other road users.86 TfL, for example, said there was a “strong case” for making insurance requirements for e-scooters equal to those for mopeds, and therefore to mandate that riders are covered by third party insurance, “to offer greater protection for both riders and other road users.”87 The Motor Insurers’ Bureau supported insurance for e-scooters, saying that they will “inevitably give rise to additional accidents”. It said this should be a lighter-touch approach than car insurance requirements and that the amount of cover, and the cost, should reflect the lower risk presented by e-scooters.88 The British Insurance Brokers’ Association shared this view.89 The RNIB and the King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association both suggested that registering and insuring e-scooters would make it easier to identify a rider and seek any kind of redress in the event of a collision or incident.90

55.Other witnesses, however, called for e-scooters to be treated in a similar way to bikes and e-bikes, which do not require mandatory insurance.91 Taur Technologies described requirements such as insurance as “unduly burdensome, and that any benefits would be far outweighed by the costs and inconvenience both for owners and riders and for the public authorities.”92 The AA suggested that insurance should not be a mandatory requirement, but users could be encouraged to take out some form of personal liability insurance cover.93 Professor Anable said “I am concerned that, if we go down the route of applying the need for insurance for this mode, then, by the back door, we are going to be applying it to other micro-mobility and active modes [...] Cyclists do not currently have insurance. If we put them on e-scooters, we need to do it for cyclists.”94

56.Some witnesses who were supportive of insuring e-scooters suggested that e-scooters could have some form of registration or identification system in order to verify which scooters are insured and to help with enforcement (enforcement is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5). The British Insurance Brokers’ Association and the charity Road Safety Support suggested this could include a small chip or barcode identification plate, with a central database of registered e-scooters managed by the DVLA (in a similar way to the registration of motor vehicles).95 This is similar to the ‘insurance sticker’ required in Germany.

57.As part of its Future of Transport consultation, the Department is seeking views on whether, in the longer term, micro-mobility devices should be treated more like mopeds or e-bikes for insurance purposes.96 In its guidance for local areas and rental operators, the Government noted that responses to that consultation so far have generally supported regulating e-scooters in a similar way to bikes and e-bikes.97 As with the current requirement for users to have a driving licence, the Minister told us that “we need to await the results of the trials so that we can make an informed decision on whether insurance will be required for e-scooters in the future.”98

58.There are mixed views by stakeholders on whether, in the longer-term, there should be a mandatory requirement for e-scooter riders to have insurance, either for rental schemes or for privately owned vehicles. In our view, an e-scooter is more akin to a bike or an e-bike, rather than a moped, and we share concerns that too many requirements on users or operators may be burdensome and discourage take-up.

59.The Department should closely monitor the number and type of collisions that occur during the e-scooter rental trials to determine the future insurance requirements for both rental and privately-owned e-scooters, should the latter be legalised.

54 For example, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ESC0022), Halfords (ESC0030), Bolt (ESC0064) TIER (ESC0048), Helbiz (ESC0016), Miss Nicola McWhinnie (ESC0024).

55 Taur Technologies (ESC0010)

56 Pure Electric (ESC0031)

57 For example, Go-Ahead Group (ESC0043).

58 Sustrans (ESC0044)

59 Qq 6–8

60 For example, Lime (Q62), Voi (Q63)

61 Q96

62 Department for Transport, E-scooter trials: guidance for local areas and rental operators, June 2020, p 20

63 Q131

64 Department for Transport, E-scooter trials: guidance for local areas and rental operators, June 2020, p 20

65 Department for Transport, E-scooter rental trials: outcome and summary of responses, June 2020

66 HC Deb, 2 July 2020, col 496 [Commons Chamber]

67 Department for Transport, Future of Transport Regulatory Review: Call for Evidence, March 2020, pp 26–27

68 Qq 116–117

69Electric scooters: get to know the new regulations”, Bavarian News, 19 July 2019

70 International Transport Forum, Safe Micromobility, February 2020, p 30

71 For example, Guide Dogs (ESC0074), Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (ESC0056)

72 RNIB (ESC0065)

73 For example, Taur Technologies (ESC0010), BIBA (ESC0059), Bolt (ESC0064), Helbiz (ESC0016)

74 Q65

75 Q5

76 Lime (ESC0070)

77 For example, Bolt (ESC0064), Lime (Q62), Bird (Q61)

78 Q118

79 Qq 113–117

80 Department for Transport, E-scooter trials: guidance for local areas and rental operators, June 2020; Q113

81 Under the Motor Insurance Directive (MID) motorised vehicles in all EU Member States must hold third party liability insurance. Until the 2014 Vnuk judgement, mobility scooters and other micromobility devices had been considered to be out of scope of this requirement, by virtue of not being considered motorised vehicles for the purpose of the MID. However, the Vnuk judgement changed that interpretation of the MID and broadened the definition of a motor vehicle.

82 Regulating electric scooters (e-scooters), Briefing Paper Number 8958, House of Commons Library, August 2020

83 Eltis, ’E-scooter regulations in Germany and France’, accessed 22 September 2020

84Germany and France to regulate e-scooters”, European Transport Safety Council news story, 20 May 2019

85The rise of the E-scooter and its insurance challenges”, Insurance Business, 23 September 2019

86 For example, BLM (ESC0076), Road Safety Support (ESC0052), BIBA (ESC0059), DriveTech (ESC0062) John Lewis (ESC0089), Brewery Logistics Group (ESC0013).

87 Transport for London (ESC0049)

88 Motor Insurers’ Bureau (ESC0037)

89 British Insurance Brokers’ Association (ESC0059)

90 Q33 [RNIB], King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (ESC0082)

91 For example, TIER (ESC0067), Bird (Q27), Bolt (ESC0064)

92 Taur Technologies (ESC0010)

93 AA (ESC0045)

94 Q11

95 British Insurance Brokers’ Association (ESC0059), Road Safety Support (ESC0052)

96 Department for Transport, Future of Transport Regulatory Review: Call for Evidence, March 2020

98 Q116

Published: 2 October 2020