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Electric scooters riding shotgun on promenade © Russell Jacobs

Electric scooters riding shotgun on promenade © Russell Jacobs

Electric scooters coming your way

Scooters emerged onto the streets years ago. But they were for children. Now they are bigger, faster and ridden by older ‘kids’ – the electric scooter has arrived. But what is their status? HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths  decided to find out.

I first saw a fleet of young people riding fast down the middle of the road in Venice Beach, LA, a few years back. It was a Friday night, it looked like fun. Later I had dinner with a friend who was blatantly Eeyore-ish about the vehicles: too fast; obstructive because freely abandoned on pavements; dangerous. Spoilsport, I thought.

Now I understand a little of what he meant.

Cycle riders have always been pests when they take ownership of the pavements and jump traffic lights. Now electric-scooters can be super pests. Not all of them but some are ridden aggressively, too fast and they can prove a menace as you walk casually along the seafront.

Motor vehicles need to be driven with respect. And that is what they are, motor vehicles. However, many of them are not legal.

Legal or illegal?

Electric scooters riding shotgun on pavement © Russell Jacobs

Electric scooters on the promenade © Russell Jacobs

The government is running over 32 schemes in areas around the country where companies have been appointed to rent e-scooters. As long as the driver is over 18 and holds a current full or provisional driving licence, these are legal and allowed on the roads and cycle lanes. Not on pavements or footpaths, nor with passengers.  E-scooters should not be driven while talking on the phone. The speed limit is 15.5mph.

Privately owned e-scooters, although widely available on the internet, are illegal unless ridden on private grounds with the owner’s permission.

In the alleged words of Michael Caine, it seems ‘not many people know that’.

In Hastings I have seen riders weaving along the seafront, going the wrong way down one-way streets; speeding down the West Hill; on the phone: a passenger piggy-backing behind the driver.

The scooters are low to the ground so knowing the state of our roads they are susceptible to potholes, can easily go out of control and upend the driver.

Traffic offences

Electric scooter on the promenade © Russel Jacobs

Electric scooter on the promenade © Russel Jacobs

The Metropolitan Police have recently been cracking down on privately-owned e-scooters and have confiscated 800 of the vehicles, some having been souped up to speeds of 40mph and even up to 70mph. If found guilty of traffic offences, the rider can be fined up to £300 and be given six points on their  current or future driving license. You can be charged with drink-driving. Not long ago a driver lost his licence in Lewisham for drink-driving while going at 30mph. He had no driving licence or insurance – and no idea it was required.

They are silent  – some rental companies are thinking of introducing a humming noise, the vehicles don’t have lights, indicators or registration plates. Helmets are not compulsory, although definitely advisable, as there are an increasing number of accidents, the majority of which result in head and neck injuries.

I do not want to be a total killjoy; they are evidently fun; an affordable form of transport; sustainable, do not emit pollution and can take you from A to B easily and quickly. I just ask that drivers be responsible, drive carefully and be respectful of pedestrians.

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Posted 09:04 Sunday, Jul 18, 2021 In: Society

4 Comments

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  1. Erica Smith

    Great article, Lauris!
    Whilst I appreciate that e-scooters are a great alternative to driving a car, e-scooter drivers need to be really mindful of other road users. They are both fast and silent. I think that noone (including cyclists – including me!) should share space with pedestrians if we are going faster than 10mph… and if pedestrians are in the immediate vicinity we need to slow down to 5mph – or even slower. A lot of people using electric bikes and scooters don’t compromise their speed when mixing with pedestrians. Speed + silence = accidents waiting to happen!

    Comment by Erica Smith — Wednesday, Jul 21, 2021 @ 22:31

  2. Andrew Colquhoun

    Having been hit from behind by an e-scooter in the George Street pedestrian precinct two weeks ago, I contacted the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Sussex Police have already had a crackdown on e-scooters in Brighton, particularly where there is a suspicion of them being used for drug runs. Some have been confiscated. It would be good to know what guidance has been given to our local police officers.

    Comment by Andrew Colquhoun — Monday, Jul 19, 2021 @ 11:44

  3. David Woolf

    I do not believe that there is a Government rental scheme in Hastings, so every e-scooter being ridden on footpaths, cycle lanes or roads is illegal! This is plainly folly given that we have had some years to establish rules. Almost anything with wheels can have a motor attached and the available motors mainly come from China, designed for the US market, rated at 750W and capable of at least double the 15.5 mph UK and EU limit, unless regulated. Without regulation AND enforcement I do not expect many owners to pay more money for scooter that are speed-regulated!
    I paid more for a legal e-bike because I will not risk my driving licence but I am not required to register, tax or insure it. Even here there is a real issue with cycling on shared pedestrian/cycle spaces, especially given the presence of children, dogs and people paying more attention to their phones than to what is moving around them. I believe that traditional motor vehicles will eventually have to be made to give up space for dedicated lanes for scooters, bikes and the odd motorised dustbin.

    Comment by David Woolf — Monday, Jul 19, 2021 @ 09:19

  4. ken davis

    This is just the tip of the iceberg concerning alternative forms of local transport.
    In a hilly town like Hastings they are much more convenient, smaller and lighter than electric bikes. What they tell us is that a radical review of how and what we use for short distances need to be examined and appropriate laws brought in rather than present out of date ones applied.

    Comment by ken davis — Sunday, Jul 18, 2021 @ 21:34

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