LEGAL EAGLE: Police stopped my son and told him his e-scooter was illegal

I bought my son an e-scooter to get to and from school but he was stopped by police and told it was illegal. Is this right?

An e-scooter cannot be legally ridden on the path, cycle lane, or any other pedestrian area the same as a car.
An e-scooter cannot be legally ridden on the path, cycle lane, or any other pedestrian area the same as a car.

The short answer is yes. Under current law it is legal to own an e-scooter but you cannot use it on a road or in any other public place.

This may sound odd but it has a clear basis in law, an e-scooter is defined as a “powered transporter’ which is a term used by Department of Transport to cover this type of vehicle. It also includes Segways, hoverboards, go-peds (combustion engine-powered kick-scooters), powered unicycles, and u-wheels.

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As a “powered transport” the courts have found that they fall within the definition of a “Motor Vehicle” for the purpose of the Road Traffic Act 1988. They therefore cannot be legally ridden on the path, cycle lane, or any other pedestrian area the same as a car.

This doesn’t mean they can be used on the road though, although there are some ongoing trials of “public” e-scooters in a number of cities, including Sunderland and Newcastle, privately owned e-scooters still cannot be used on a public road.

In order to use a vehicle on a public road or public place you must have insurance; the vehicle must also meet with technical standards, be able to be taxed, licensed, and registered.

For an e-scooter, the user must also pass a full driver’s test and hold a valid licence at the time of use. You must also use relevant safety equipment namely a helmet.

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At the moment no privately available e-scooters meet the required standards for use on a public road and none are insurable for use on a public road.

If you are found to be using an e-scooter in a public place then you could be liable for a fixed penalty notice for driving otherwise in accordance with a licence (if you don’t have a valid driver’s licence), no insurance, or under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 for using a vehicle on the pavement.

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Even if you are using an insured public e-scooter through one of the hire schemes you could still be prosecuted if you are over the legal limit for either alcohol or drugs. If convicted you would lose your licence.

You could also be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving should your actions on the e-scooter merit it.