The law around E-bikes and E-scooters explained16 Sep 2021 | Stuart Kightley
Why are electric bikes legal but not scooters?
E-bikes and e-scooters are the new rides on the block. To many, they are the micro-mobility revolution that will deliver low carbon, cheap, urban travel. To others, they are cheating. Or dangerous. Or illegal.
As with any new technology, micro-mobility devices offer opportunities and challenges, and lawmakers have the job of regulating them so that their obvious benefits can be enjoyed safely.
Why are electric bikes legal?
If an e-bike complies with the construction and use regulations, it is already allowed by law. The requirements are:
- It must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
- It must have a maximum powered speed of 15.5 mph (20 kph)
Providing these requirements are met, it officially becomes an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPCs). This gives it special status, so it is not treated as a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is exempt from the road traffic acts that require insurance, helmets, tax and registration.
EAPCs are allowed on the roads and in cycle lanes (but not on pavements) and can be ridden by anyone aged 14 and over. As with bicycles, proficiency training and bike helmet use are recommended on safety grounds but are not mandatory. This is a light touch legal framework and e-bikes are essentially treated the same as bicycles. Which makes sense – they are in fact the same as a normal bike, only the pedal power is enhanced by battery output within strict limits.
A small e-battery is better seen as a way of encouraging those who might otherwise be daunted by the prospect of cycling, to venture forth onto the streets. This is especially so during the pandemic lockdown when alternative means of transport are even less appealing and the roads are quieter than normal. An e-bike will smooth the hills and extend the range of the average cyclist so that commuting to work becomes an achievable target – at least for many, a realistic alternative to the tube, bus or car.
There is no evidence that e-bikes are more likely to be involved in accidents – injuring the rider or anyone else – than normal bikes, so if they get more people on two wheels rather than four it is hard to fault a bike that gives a bit more oompf for those who want it.
One of the most common injuries caused by bicycle accidents is head injuries, accounting for around 40% of reported cycling injuries. These range from cuts and bruises to concussion and hairline fractures to severe brain damage and fatalities. The most common type of head injury caused by cycling is concussion which can cause dizziness, memory loss, temporary loss of brain function and loss of speech control. The higher the speed of a cycling accident the more likely the head injury will be a lot more serious.
Why are electric scooters illegal?
An e-scooter is a slightly different animal. The law treats the e-scooter very differently, at least at present.
The electric scooter is a powered vehicle (technically a Personal Light Electric Vehicle), and therefore unlike the e-bike, it is classed as a motor vehicle under the road traffic legislation. However it does not comply with the construction and use regulations (for instance a registration plate and rear facing lights) like other motor vehicles, so it is illegal on our roads.
Even if you were to have a compliant e-scooter you would still have to comply with the rules requiring insurance, MOT, road tax and helmet to legally ride an e-scooter on the road. So they are only currently allowed on private land (with the owner’s permission).
The penalty for use on a road is 6 penalty points and/or a £300 fine.
The annual casualties in Greater London report from Transport for London show that serious injuries caused by ‘other’ vehicles such as e-scooters are on the rise, up to 56 from 10 in the previous year.
In the Spring of 2020, the government consulted on legalising e-scooters, and they indicated in the call for evidence that they were looking at regulating e-scooters so that they are essentially treated the same as e-bikes. That is, a low regulatory bar which sets a maximum speed limit (12.5 mph or 15.5 mph, or somewhere in between) and perhaps a maximum power output. There may be other construction requirements, such as the need to have a handlebar (ruling out some other forms of micro-mobility).
The government paper also sought views on whether to allow e-scooters on roads and cycle lanes (but not the pavement) and will need to consider what regulations to impose in relation to braking and lighting/reflectors; dimensions and ability to indicate; registration, licencing and age limits.
Governmental pilot scheme
Around the same time, it was announced that a 12-month pilot rental scheme for e-scooters would begin from 4 July 2020. From this time on, local authorities could allow private e-scooter rental schemes within their area, subject to certain rules. The hope was that the change in transport use resulting from the pandemic lockdown would create a window of opportunity to encourage and roll out micro-mobility vehicles. The new scheme attracted headlines that perhaps suggested an e-scooter free-for-all, where all e-scooters became legal overnight. The reality was very different: from 4 July the enabling regulations were put in place to allow rental schemes to be approved by councils, and at the time of writing none have yet been publicised.
The rules under the scheme remain fairly tight. They will still be treated as motor vehicles during the trial and so will need insurance cover (to be arranged by the hiring company) and a valid driving licence (full or provisional). E-scooters hired under an approved scheme will be allowed to ride on road and in cycle lanes and tracks, but not on pavements. There will be no need to wear a helmet (but it is recommended).
The government intends to monitor the scheme monthly. The evaluation process will look at risk vs benefit: safety outcomes from e-scooter users, public perception (including from other road users and people with disabilities); as well as take-up and popularity.
Experience in early adopter cities around the world shows that differences in infrastructure and culture can create very different regimes: a 6 mph speed limit in Barcelona’s cycle lanes, compulsory insurance in Berlin and helmets in Kyoto. And Paris has just announced a crackdown to stop e-scooters littering the capital.
Can you ride a private electric scooter on the road?
The only electric scooters that can be ridden on public roads are those current part of government-backed trials such as the one being carried out in 10 boroughs of London. Privately owned e-scooters can not be ridden on public roads, they can only be used on private land. This is because they don’t always have visible rear red lights, number plates or the ability to signal when turning left or right.
Can you ride an electric scooter if banned from driving?
If you are banned from driving this excludes you from riding electric scooters as well. To ride an e-scooter you require a category Q entitlement on your driving license. All of the same rules apply to e-scooters as other vehicles within the Q category.
For expert advice or to start your claim, please call our specialist cycling accident solicitors today.
For a free initial conversation call 020 7485 8811
Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you
Cycling News & InsightsVIEW ALL
Top 10 Major Highway Code Changes for Cyclists
New Highway Code rules for cyclists At the end of January 2022, the Highway Code was updated to make British roads...Read more
What to do immediately after a cycling accident?
If you have been involved in a cycling accident, you may experience shock and disorientation at the scene. Depending on...Read more
The law around E-bikes and E-scooters explained
Why are electric bikes legal but not scooters? E-bikes and e-scooters are the new rides on the block. To many,...Read more
Bike Boxes – what are the rules?
Cycle boxes at traffic lights I read a post recently on a London cycling forum in relation to some confusion...Read more
Highway Code changes just the start in protecting...
The 2020 changes to the Highway Code do not go far enough to change driver behaviour and protect cyclists and pedestrians,...Read more
The importance of parks for cycling
I ventured outside the comfort of my home this past weekend for the first time in 11 weeks. As I walked...Read more
Helmet Cameras: Personal Safety and the Law
Helmet cameras have become one of the must-have items for cyclists, especially those commuting to and from work. They offer...Read more
Bike Cam Prosecutions
Have you ever been cut up by a van turning left? Or been riding along only to find the tarmac...Read more
Boom time for bikes – London Mayor’s new...
Yesterday Sadiq Khan unveiled his ‘London Streetspace’ programme designed to transform London’s streets to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase...Read more
Around the World In One Day for NHS...
On Thursday 30th April 2020 I took part in a 240 mile cycle, raising money for the NHS. This ride was to...Read more
Highway code refresher for cyclists
As we start week 7 of lockdown, there is one thing that is more noticeable on the roads…cyclists. Whether you...Read more
How can liability insurance offer peace of mind...
Stuart Kightley, managing partner writes in the Spring ‘20 issue of the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) magazine and explores the question...Read more
Staying safe whilst cycling during the COVID-19
We are all having to change our lifestyles as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on society....Read more
Cycling injuries – some Frequently Asked Questions
I thought I would reflect on some of the questions I am frequently asked by my cycling clients and take...Read more
Cycling Accidents involving potholes
If a cyclist is injured as a result of a pothole or defect on the road they were travelling on...Read more
Do I need insurance for cycling?
There is no legal requirement for cyclists to hold insurance cover in order to cycle in the UK. That includes...Read more
Tips for a cycle commuter
Two weeks ago I was cycling home from hockey training along Upper Richmond Road. I was literally 2 minutes from my...Read more
Death of cyclist in road traffic accident opens...
After the death of a cyclist outside the Olympic park, Stuart Kightley, personal injury solicitor at Osbornes re-visits the question...Read more
E-Bikes – are they the future for commuting?
The Government released some clarification last week in relation to the upper limit of the cycle to work scheme. Many...Read more
Intimidatory driving to become breach of traffic law?
A new driving offence of ‘intimidatory driving’ is being considered by the government to crack down on close passes by...Read more
Ealing cyclists up in arms over latest death
After 51-year-old Met Police officer, Claudia Manera was killed in a bike accident at the junction of The Broadway and...Read more
Can a ‘bike backie’ get you in trouble?
London’s controversial mayor Boris Johnson has been caught by The Sun newspaper giving his lawyer wife Marina Wheeler a...Read more
The risks and rewards of cycling in London
Stuart Kightley of Osbornes solicitors asks the question: is cycling in London good for your health? I acted for a...Read more
Cyclists, Roundabouts and the Highway Code
The Highway Code is more than just a guide to how to pass your driving test. It is intended to...Read more