June 28, 2022
Our pavements are becoming increasingly busy places to be. Once the safe space preserved for pedestrians to move about without fear of coming into conflict with fast-moving vehicles; pedestrians are having to get used to sharing this safe space with other users. We are used to seeing cyclists use the pavements to avoid particularly busy or hazardous sections of roads and there has been a significant increase in the number of powered mobility scooters both on and off the pavement.
Both nationally and globally we are being encouraged to rethink the way we move about our towns and cities with the emphasis being on avoiding using our cars and moving towards greener methods of transport.
The popularity of e-scooters in the UK
In more recent years we have seen the emergence of the e-scooter as a mode of transport. Many countries have trialled the use of e-scooters and they are becoming common place sights in many cities. Powered by a motor; e-scooters may seem the ideal green option to whiz about our congested cities avoiding the traffic and the need to rely on public transport. They also seem to offer an easy and fun way to travel.
It is illegal to buy and use an e-scooter on the road in the UK; however rental e-scooters have been trialled in a number of cities and towns across the UK. The trials which started in 2021 have been extended until November 2022.
The rental e-scooters are banned from pavements but allowed on roads and cycle lanes. The use of rental e-scooters is subject to certain conditions. The rider must be at least 16 years old and hold the correct driving licence. They must also create an account with the rental company (who will provide the necessary insurance).
There are penalties if the rental e-scooters are used without the rider holding the correct licence; for using the scooter on the pavement or using a mobile phone whilst riding. They are also subject to the usual rules of the road so must not run a red light. They are classed as motor vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1988. Guidance on the use of rental e-scooters can be found on the government’s website www.gov.uk/guidance/e-scootertrials
There has been a recent push for legalisation of e-scooters by the Transport Committee of MPs citing their green credentials. Legislation on the use of privately bought e-scooters was touched upon recently by Grant Schapps, Secretary of State for Transport and will form part of the upcoming Transport Bill which was referred to in the Queen’s Speech. It is expected that private scooters will be legalised for use on public roads and cycle lanes; with a new vehicle class being created to include them. This could happen as soon as early 2023.
Legislation is welcomed by many as this will allow the sale of e-scooters to be controlled more effectively; with control over the age of the rider; the maximum speed and weight etc.
However, there remain some safety concerns in relation to their use.
Just how safe are e-scooters for both the user and for others on the roads and pavements?
The difficulty lies in the enforcement of the law regarding their use. Although the scooters are only intended for use on the road or on designated cycle paths; e-scooters are often seen being ridden on the pavements. Even the most conscientious rider may be tempted to use their scooter on the pavement where the roads are busy or there are insufficient cycle paths. This means they present a hazard to pedestrians, who are vulnerable to suffering personal injury, should a collision take place between scooter rider and pedestrian. They are virtually silent and can travel at speeds of up to 30mph (although their speed is likely to be limited to around 15.5mph). They are also able to change direction quickly. They are particularly dangerous for more vulnerable pedestrians such as young children, those with prams, the elderly, deaf and the visually impaired.
The National Federation of the Blind UK has recently delivered a petition to Downing Street calling on politicians not to legalise the use of private e-scooters on the public highway. They state that e-scooters are not safe for vulnerable pedestrians; highlighting the difficulty in regulating their use; issues regarding the scooters being left on pavements thereby creating a hazard and the number of serious injuries sustained by pedestrians involved in collisions with e-scooters.
There are also risks for those using the scooters. There have been concerns raised regarding the scooters themselves and the potential for an e-scooter accident. Most designs do not have mirrors or indicators which makes it difficult for the rider to react to the traffic around them and for other vehicles to judge their direction of travel. They are not easy to see and there is the temptation for riders to ‘nip’ in and out of queues of traffic. The rider is also vulnerable due to their standing position on the scooters. If involved in a collision (with another vehicle, a pedestrian or bollards/signage etc) it is likely they will be thrown forward; with a significantly increased risk of sustaining a head injury. The leading UK brain injury association Headway has advised that helmets should be mandatory for those using e-scooters.
The dangers involved were brought sharply into focus in the summer of 2019 following the tragic death of Emily Hartridge (a well-known TV and YouTube presenter) when she was hit by a lorry in London whilst riding an e-scooter.
Prior to the legalisation of private e-scooters in the UK much will need to be done to ensure that the infrastructure and regulatory framework is in place to protect both the rider and others using our pavements and roads.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) are focusing on the topic of e-scooter safety in their Injury Prevention Week which runs from 27 June – 1 July 2022; highlighting the measures which need to be considered to help protect people and reduce the number of casualties.
Our Serious Injury Team at Spencers Solicitors are experienced in dealing with claims involving pedestrians and road traffic collisions resulting in serious, life-changing injuries.
About the author
Mary is a Solicitor within our Serious Injury Team.
Mary joined the business in 1997 after graduating from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with a degree in English Literature. Mary subsequently successfully completed a Graduate Diploma in Law and the Legal Practice Course whilst working full time. Mary qualified as a Solicitor in 2007 and has worked within the Serious Injury Team for over ten years dealing with high value, complex injury claims. Mary has extensive experience dealing with a wide variety of claims including catastrophic injury claims, accidents involving fatalities and cases involving serious orthopaedic and psychological injuries.
Mary can be contacted on 01246 266668.