Is it Legal to Ride an Electric Scooter or Electric Unicycle?
Have you ever stopped to consider: ‘Are electric scooters or electric unicycles legal?’. It does not matter if you’ve got the best e scooter or electric unicycle in all the world. Even more importantly, are you using it legally?
Electric Rideables Are Not for the Roads
Electric Scooters and Electric Unicycles are both referred to as electric rideables (e-rides). They also belong in the category of powered transporters called Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs). Due to their functionalities, the law considers them to be motor vehicles. However, they are not quite altogether ‘legal’ enough to be used on public roads alongside regular vehicles.
There’s a twist in the tale…
As it currently stands, electric scooters and electric unicycles are illegal to use on public roads which include cycle lanes, pavements and pedestrian-only areas. They are, however, not illegal to rent, buy, sell, own or use. And there are special conditions under which electric rideables may be used.
How to Use E-Rides Legally
An e-rider may enjoy the use of an e-ride in selected areas under the current government trials. Outside of these areas, e-riders may, with the permission of landowners, use their electric scooters and electric unicycles on privately owned property.
There is a growing number of private landowners who now allow their lands to be used for recreational activities with various forms of powered electric rideables. There may also be a leasing arrangement between both parties. Either way, it is the responsibility of the rider to ensure compliance with relevant rules and regulations when riding their electric vehicles.
The top two largest private landowners in the UK are the Forestry Commission and the National Trust. Together, they have a combined land space of over 3 million acres. Now, that is a lot of space for a lot of people and their e-rides to be enjoyed both recreationally and legally. Even with the ongoing government trials, electric rideables can still be used to explore the British countryside. Riding an electric scooter or electric unicycle is a great activity for relieving mental and physical stress. It is also a lot of fun.
While the legality of the use of electric rideables is still being debated in the UK, France, among other countries, can already see the benefit of taking a more proactive approach. France’s reaction to the legalisation of electric rideables adopts a fix-forward attitude. Their transportation department realises that putting the right policy and governance in place may not be a quick fix. Acquiring accurate data from private ownership, however, will help to make more informed decisions towards shaping a cohesive policy for the public.
Legality versus Adaptability
PLEVUK, a not-for-profit organisation, has created a legal framework in favour of electric rideables. This framework is documented on their website Rideables.org and was developed in collaboration with other countries where electric rideables have been adapted efficiently within their transportation systems. It allows for flexibility in the use of various forms of electric rideables and is not restricted to only the electric scooter or unicycle. The framework on Rideables.org combines existing laws for cycling and current on-road inner-city speed limit rules.
PLEVUK’s success on this framework demonstrates that sometime in the near future, similar policies can be developed or adapted to legalise the public use of electric rideables.
The e-RIDES Perspective: Rideables are here to stay
Our viewpoint, at e-RIDES, is that Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVS) improve rather than upset or damage people’s lives and property. The current pandemic situation dictates that there will be more social distancing travelling than before. PLEVs (or electric rideables as we like to call it) are viable alternative means of transportation. It means that they should be considered essential for safer transport, rather than a nuisance. Other advantages to using electric rideables include helping to reduce congestions, air pollution and carbon footprint.
The government’s position that electric scooters and other electric rideables be classified as motor vehicles is not entirely accurate. We believe there has now emerged a new subset that functions somewhere between a bicycle and a motorbike. New policies ought to be fashioned and adapted to suit these changes. They should be fair but not too stringent that they discourage the development of these new forms of electric vehicles.
While the UK government is working to fast track the legislation of powered mobility, we believe the most pragmatic approach would be to allow the use of these electric rideables. Our recommendation is that the current laws which apply to bicycles are inherited, and on-road speed limits (20 mph to 30 mph) are firmly observed by their riders. We suggest that the existing laws for cycling and inner-city on-road speed limit be adhered to for the safety of all road users, rideables included.
If you enjoy this article and find it interesting, please share it on social media platforms, and remember, ‘Ride With e-RIDES’.