E-scooters: pavement nuisance or transport innovation? Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Re-assessing the legal status of e-scooters

1.Privately owned e-scooters are already a familiar sight in many British towns and cities, despite remaining illegal to use on roads and pavements. They have the potential to offer a low cost, accessible and environmentally friendly alternative to the private car. The Department for Transport’s focus must be on developing and implementing a sensible and proportionate regulatory framework for legal e-scooter use, drawing on lessons from other countries, which ensures that potential negative impacts on pedestrians and disabled people are avoided. (Paragraph 16)

2.We welcome the Department’s work to examine the legal status of e-scooters. The review of micro-mobility transport and the introduction of rental e-scooter trials will allow important evidence and data to be gathered to help determine the best way to incorporate both rental and privately-owned e-scooters within the UK transport mix. (Paragraph 17)

Modal shift effects of e-scooters

3.There is currently limited evidence within the UK on how the growth of e-scooters has affected other transport usage, and thus the modal shift which may occur as e-scooters continue to grow in popularity. In our view, it would be counter-productive if an uptake in e-scooters, whether rental or private, primarily replaced people undertaking more active and healthy forms of travel, such as walking, cycling, and even using kick-scooters. Promoting active travel must remain a key policy aim for the Department for Transport. The Department’s focus should be on encouraging the use of e-scooters to replace short car journeys rather than walking and cycling. (Paragraph 34)

4.The Department, working with local authorities, must collect data during the rental trials on the modal shift observed with e-scooters. Should privately-owned e-scooters and rental e-scooter schemes be fully legalised, the Department should use this evidence base to publish its aspirations for modal shift in the medium to long term, with particular focus on how people can be encouraged to switch from the car to an e-scooter for some short journeys. (Paragraph 35)

Accessibility of e-scooters

5.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. (Paragraph 41)

6.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. (Paragraph 42)

7.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. (Paragraph 50)

8.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. (Paragraph 51)

9.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. (Paragraph 58)

10.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. (Paragraph 59)

Safety risks and regulation

11.In our view, the speed of e-scooters should be suitable for the local environment they are deployed in. A “one size fits all” approach will not work. Speed limits in the trials can be determined at the local level by local authorities and, in the case of rental e-scooters, via ‘geo-fencing’ technology installed by companies. Operators should work closely with local authorities to plan and implement the most appropriate speed limits for rental e-scooters in local areas. (Paragraph 71)

12.In its Response to this Report, the Department should clarify what principles it expects local authorities to follow when determining e-scooter speed limits in certain areas. (Paragraph 72)

13.The Department must use the data gathered during the rental trials, in addition to qualitative and quantitative evidence from other countries, to determine which e-scooter design requirements are appropriate and necessary from a safety perspective. This exercise will help inform minimum standard specifications should privately owned e-scooters be legalised for use on UK roads. (Paragraph 80)

14.We understand that it may not always be practical or feasible for users of rental e-scooters to obtain and wear a helmet. It is important, however, that e-scooter operators involved with the trials encourage users to wear helmets, and where possible, operators should provide them. Should privately owned e-scooters be legalised for use on roads, the Department should likewise encourage helmet use. (Paragraph 90)

15.An e-scooter travelling on a pavement at a speed of up to 15.5 mph is a serious hazard both for the user and pedestrians. Local authorities need plans in place to monitor and discourage pavement use during rental trials in their local areas. Rental e-scooter operators must use the technology available to vigorously discourage pavement use. Local authorities and e-scooter operators must be able to demonstrate that measures to tackle such dangerous and antisocial behaviour are effective. (Paragraph 99)

16.In responding to this Report, the Department should clarify how it intends to monitor whether e-scooters during the rental trials are being ridden on pavements and the number of users penalised for this offence and that it has evaluated and identified effective measures to eliminate such antisocial behaviour. (Paragraph 100)

17.Should privately-owned e-scooters be legalised, the Government should ensure that the law clearly prohibits the pavement use of e-scooters, that there are robust enforcement measures are in place and that such measures are effective in eliminating this behaviour. (Paragraph 101)

18.Rental e-scooters left on pavements as ‘street clutter’ can cause a hazard for pedestrians, particularly people with visual impairments and those with limited mobility. We do not want to see British towns and cities develop the dangerous and unsightly street clutter problems with e-scooters, experienced in some other European cities. We are encouraged that e-scooter companies are increasingly using technological solutions to prevent dockless e-scooters being left in a haphazard fashion on pavements. (Paragraph 108)

19.The Department, working with local authorities, should closely monitor the trials to determine whether any problems are developing with scooters being left on pavements as ‘street clutter’. If so, the Department will need to trial and evaluate whether stronger regulation to specify where users must deposit rental e-scooters after their journey is effective in eliminating these problems. This ought to be done before making a decision on whether to legalise rental e-scooters on a more permanent basis. (Paragraph 109)

Environmental impact

20.E-scooters have the potential to improve local air quality and help meet the Government’s carbon emission targets, particularly if they replace car journeys. However, we note there are valid environmental concerns relating to the lifetime of the scooters and the processes used to charge their batteries. It is encouraging that e-scooter companies are making improvements to these processes as technology develops. (Paragraph 121)

21.We recommend that local authorities involved with the trials make it a condition that e-scooter companies seeking to participate operate in an environmentally sustainable way, both in terms of the design lifetime of their scooters and the processes used to recharge batteries. (Paragraph 122)

22.The Department should closely monitor the environmental impact of e-scooters during the rental trials and, if needed, consider introducing stricter requirements around sustainability. (Paragraph 123)

Evaluation and next steps

23.The rental trials will provide a crucial evidence base for future legislation on e-scooters. The data collected from local authorities and operators will provide valuable information on the impact of e-scooters on safety, the environment, and people’s journey choices. (Paragraph 129)

24.We recommend that the Department publishes its central evaluation framework for the rental trials, in order to ensure full transparency and scrutiny of the policy development process. (Paragraph 130)

25.While we support the Government’s desire to enable companies and users to take up this new innovative and environmentally friendly form of transport, this should not be to the detriment of pedestrians, particularly disabled people. The Department must use these trials to ensure that any regulations governing e-scooters are effective in providing a safe environment for both riders and other road users. (Paragraph 131)

26.We note that the usage of privately-owned e-scooters, once legalised, will avoid some of the downsides of rental schemes, such as scooters being left as ‘street clutter’. However, the concerns we highlight in this Report about pavement use, excessive speed, and enforcement remain pressing and will need to be addressed forcefully by the Government in legislation. The current trials present a vital opportunity to test whether measures to curb such behaviours are effective. (Paragraph 132)

27.Subject to the conditions we outline in this Report being met, we believe that the Department should take swift action to legalise the use of privately owned e-scooters on roads and cycle lanes. We would expect this to take place within the next 18 months. (Paragraph 133)

Published: 2 October 2020