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Embracing e-scooters

30 October 2020

Mark Stevens, Chair of ADEPT’s Engineering Board reflects on whether it's time to embrace e-scooters.

I have a fond, lingering recollection of when I was a kid (yes, I can remember that far back) and would whizz around the streets in south-east London on my scooter. It was great fun to ‘scoot’ between home and school in the morning and then back home again later in the day.

A few years ago, my wife also bought herself a self-propelled scooter and would take it with her on the park’n’ride bus to Leicester city centre and finish the last mile or so of her journey into the office on it.

Despite their popularity, for all ages, there has been a great hullaballoo about the emergence of e-scooters – something we did not experience with the introduction of e-bikes. 

There are a number of rules on e-bikes, as set out on the DfT website which says: “You can ride an electric bike if you’re 14 or over, as long as it meets certain requirements. These electric bikes are known as ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). You do not need a licence to ride one and it does not need to be registered, taxed or insured.” E-bikes must have pedals that can be used to propel them - and they are allowed to use cycle infrastructure at speeds of up to 15.5mph. 

In contrast, the rules around e-scooters (2) say you need at least a provisional licence (minimum age 16), it needs to be part of a trial, it needs to be insured and it can’t travel faster than 15.5mph.   

There should at least be a level playing field for both e-bikes and e-scooters – both are still less polluting travel modes than cars. And, if a pedestrian is unfortunately struck by an e-bike, wouldn’t that be worse than be accidentally struck by an e-scooter? The Government has made the notion of ‘levelling up’ to the fore – tackling the inconsistency between e-bikes and e-scooters would be a start!

At ADEPT we recognised this inconsistency and worked to develop a policy paper on the topic, which is meant to be thought-provoking as well as advocating positive change. The paper sets out the benefits of e-scooters and outlines how the Government can support increased take up as part of their commitment to improving air quality, reducing congestion and achieving its net zero carbon by 2050 target.

The paper also highlights a number of questions around e-scootering that need to be answered, including whether they should be allowed in bus and cycle lanes, ensuring safety, age limits, technical standards and insurance.

Covid-19 has opened the eyes of many to achieving a better work-life balance. But, for those that still need to travel to and from work, the challenge is often the first or last mile - where public transport won’t deliver you to the door, or where town/city centre parking is a nightmare. And, for those with a real environmental conscience, the prospect of a more quickly achieved, longer-term improvement in air quality that suddenly occurred through lockdown is very appealing. 

Although, not as beneficial to health as cycling and walking, nevertheless E-scooters offer a wide number of benefits, not least in terms of improving air quality, reducing emissions. And congestion. Embracing e-scooters means it can be a travel mode for all ages – if we really want it to be.  

The ADEPT Policy Position on e-scooters can be found here