As the coronavirus pandemic has spread, the government has been forced to adapt laws and regulations at an unprecedented speed. For example, it recently announced the legalisation of Wills witnessed via video conferencing technology – a much-demanded amend to the centuries-old Wills Act 1837.
In a similar vein, legislation permitting the use of rented e-scooters on public roads took effect on 4 July across the UK, in response to the public’s need for eco-friendly transportation solutions while public transport use continues to be discouraged.
How has the law changed?
Previously, the use of any e-scooter on public roads, cycle lanes or pavements was prohibited by law in Britain. However, the new law allows the use of rented e-scooters on roads and cycle lanes within set geographical boundaries – although pavement use is still banned. As lockdown restrictions ease, fast-tracked trials will take place in certain areas of the UK, testing the devices’ safety, eco-friendliness and traffic reduction capabilities.
Riders must be aged 16 or over and limit their speed to 15.5mph. They are also encouraged (although not obliged) to wear a helmet and required to possess a full or provisional driving licence.
There are some things that haven’t changed, however. While private e-scooters continue to be available for purchase online or in stores, their use remains restricted to private land – and only with the landowner’s permission. Those who ride them publicly risk a £300 fine and six points on their driving licence.
Traditional motoring offences such as using a mobile phone whilst driving; drink and drug driving; and careless and dangerous driving also apply to users of e-scooters.
Proposed regulatory changes
The government has also introduced some changes to the way e-scooters are regulated in the UK to make the forthcoming trials more representative of how – it’s hoped – these vehicles will be used in the future. The changes ensure that e-scooter users will not be forced comply with regulations not intended for them (for example, motorcycle regulations requiring users to wear a motorcycle helmet).
While certain changes will be made, the government has said that scooters will continue to be classed as motor vehicles for the first wave of trials – hence the requirement to hold a driving licence. In future trials, however, the government hopes to regulate e-scooters in the same way as electrically-assisted pedal cycles (EAPC), which are of a similar size and weight as e-scooters, and offer similar visibility for other road users.
Cambridge leads the way
In partnership with Swedish e-vehicle company Voi Technology, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority is to lead the way in Britain’s very first combined e-bike and e-scooter rental trial. For an initial three-month period, Voi will be making hundreds of e-bikes and e-scooters available across Cambridge, with ‘self-cleaning’ handlebars to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This initial period will then be assessed to determine the next steps for the remainder of the 12-month trial.
Rental costs will vary according to the rider’s preference, with a pay-as-you-ride option costing a £1 unlocking fee followed by 20p per minute. Subscription services will also be available at £10 per day or £40 per month – although lose on low incomes will be offered subsidised passes costing £10 per month. It’s anticipated that key workers will ride for free.
With the coronavirus crisis resulting in a massive reduction in air pollution, it’s hoped that the trial will continue this trend, with predictions suggesting it could eliminate 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Road transport experts
Whether you’re an e-scooter user or a scooter-for-hire firm, it’s extremely important to fully understand the relevant laws and regulations for the safety of all concerned.
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