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Electric Scooters

Volume 800: debated on Tuesday 29 October 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the use of electric scooters on public roads and pavements on (1) road users, and (2) pedestrian safety.

My Lords, to date, no assessment has been made of the impact of electric scooters on either road or pedestrian safety, as they are illegal to use on public roads, cycle lanes and pavements. However, the department is reviewing regulations that apply to electric scooters and similar vehicles as part of the Future of Mobility urban strategy. Safety considerations will be part of that review.

Is my noble friend aware that well over 1,000 incidents have been reported to the police—and not all police forces even record the figures involved? Can she assure the House that the department’s review will look at specifications of electric scooters to ensure that they have brakes, lights and stability? Will it consider imposing an age limit of 16 or above? Finally, will she ensure that the review is detailed and will not require further legislation over and beyond what arises from it, bearing in mind that when the issue of drones arose, we had to have about four bites at the cherry?

My noble friend raises a number of important issues. The strand of the regulatory review that will be looking at micromobility, which covers e-scooters, will look at vehicle requirements, user requirements—for example, age, helmets and insurance—whether they should be used on the roads or elsewhere, and the service provider requirements. On his second point about future legislation, we intend to build an agile legislation and regulatory system, because who knows where we will go beyond these scooters? It is important that legislation can keep up.

My Lords, I cut my teeth dealing with people cycling on footpaths many years ago—perhaps I had more time than most people have now. The Minister mentioned that such use of these scooters was an offence. Does that attract a fixed penalty rather than the full rigour of the law, because that makes it a lot easier for the police to enforce the law?

The noble Lord is quite right. As I mentioned, it is illegal to ride e-scooters on any land that is not private. The police can enforce the matter, they can issue fines and can sometimes confiscate the scooter.

My Lords, I have hired electric scooters in countries where it is legal to do so. Dockless bike hire schemes in this country cause similar problems with disposal and parking at the end of the hire period. They are left lying around and cause an obstruction. Do the Government accept that at least part of the answer lies in giving local authorities more power to regulate and manage bike and scooter hire schemes?

I cannot guarantee to the noble Baroness exactly where we will end up in the relationship between local authorities and hire scheme providers, but she is quite right to say that different countries and different cities have taken different approaches. For example, in Barcelona, there are only hire shops—you cannot just pick up one of these things from the streets—but in Paris, for example, they are currently legislating to treat e-scooters much like e-bikes. Different countries are doing different things. I want to ensure that we do the right thing for London and other big cities where, no doubt, such schemes would take off.

My Lords, can the noble Baroness clarify whether there is currently a requirement for dockless e-bike operators to have any kind of licence, given that they are effectively trading on a public highway? Does it not seem slightly odd that there is no requirement for them to have some kind of regulation in place?

I will have to write to the noble Baroness on that point. It is my impression that they do not require a specific licence per se but I will have to check that with officials.

Is the Minister aware of the new laws introduced recently in France that ban the riding of e-scooters on pavements and, most importantly, limit the speed, make wearing safety gear compulsory and ban e-scooters altogether on country roads?

I am aware that the French are taking matters forward. They have a maximum speed limit of 20 kilometres per hour; in Barcelona, for example, the maximum speed limit is 30 kilometres per hour. Different countries are doing different things. For example, in France, the minimum age to ride one of these scooters is eight, but there is a licensing scheme for the hire scheme. We are looking at all those things but I cannot guarantee that an age limit of eight is the right one.

Does my noble friend agree that it would be a wasted opportunity if, in the review, something is not done to deal with bicyclists who whizz along the pavement, zigzagging all over the place?

I cannot guarantee for my noble friend that that issue will form part of this specific review because, as I said, it is about the future of mobility and urban strategy, and the micromobility types of transport that will come forward in future.

Can the Minister tell us the extent to which people are being fined or charged for using an e-scooter contrary to the law? I ask that as one gets the impression, rightly or wrongly, that that is rarely the case. Are the Government of the view that it is probably better for such action not to be taken against those using e-scooters, pending the outcome of the review?

The noble Lord will know that enforcement is an operational matter for the police but I reassure him that over a one-week period in July, 100 people were stopped on the streets of London and were issued with fines; some of them had their e-scooters confiscated. I disagree with the noble Lord that, pending the regulatory review, we should not enforce. We do not know the outcome of the review; it is certainly our view at this time that we cannot guarantee that any changes to regulations will be made.

I declare an interest as somebody who used one of these e-scooters over the summer while on holiday in Paris. It was actually very enjoyable. May I encourage some proportionality in looking at the legislation and laws when they are brought in?

I am so pleased that the noble Lord enjoyed his trip on an e-scooter. I too have ridden one—indoors, at the party conference. He is completely right: we do not intend to shut the door on all these different and new types of transport, which are incredibly important to all sorts of people. Safety is our priority; that is the number one factor.