E-scooters: Where is it legal and illegal to ride?

If you live in a major UK city, chances are you've seen people zipping around from place to place on fast-moving vehicles called e-scooters.

They are two-wheeled vehicles that look much like micro-scooters children used to play on in the early '00s - the difference is these modern scooters have small electric motors allowing them to reach rather high speeds.

Micro-scooters became popular among children around the year 2000 and E-scooters are modernised, electric versions. Credit: PA

Despite their popularity in cities such as Paris and San Francisco, e-scooters are actually illegal to ride in the UK in most situations and the first fatality involving one was recorded over the weekend.

  • What are e-scooters?

E-scooters are a form of vehicle which fall under the term 'powered transporters' - it's the official word used by gov.uk to describe "a variety of novel and emerging personal transport devices which are powered by a motor".

Due to the way they're motorised and designed, within UK law they're subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to motor vehicles such as cars and motorbikes.

Among other things, that means they need to be taxed, insured and MOT'd in order for them to be road-legal.

  • Can I ride an e-scooter to work?

Despite riding e-scooters being commonplace, in most circumstances in the UK it is illegal to ride them. Credit: AP

Generally speaking, if you buy an e-scooter from the internet or elsewhere it will be illegal for you to ride it on public roads.

If you wanted to ride an e-scooter legally on the road, not only would you have to register the vehicle with the DVLA, tax it, insure it and have it safety checked, it would also have to meet certain other requirements.

E-scooters are classed as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), meaning their max speed and power is too low would need to be boosted in order to make them road legal.

These legal requirements mean that if you wanted to legally ride an e-scooter on UK roads it would be an expensive and complex process.

As the government says, users will find it "very difficult to comply with all of these requirements, meaning that it would be a criminal offence to use (e-scooters) on the road".

Due to the fact powered transporters are legally defined as motor vehicles, it is also illegal to ride them in areas used by pedestrians, cyclists, and horse-riders.

That means it's illegal to ride them on roads, cycle lanes and pavements.

  • So where can I ride my e-scooter?

Bird is probably the most well-known electric scooter company which allows riders to hire vehicles using a mobile phone app. Credit: AP

The current law says "it is legal to use a powered transporter on private land with the permission of the land owner".

So as long as the general public has no access to the land and you've gained permission from whoever owns it, you're able to ride an e-scooter there.

This caveat has allowed at least one company - Bird - to exploit a small legal loop-hole meaning some lucky users can still use e-scooters as part of their daily commute.

Bird is an electric scooter company which launched the UK's first legal electric scooter route running from Stratford Station in London to and through the nearby Olympic Park.

So anyone whose job is based in Olympic Park could arrive via train at Stratford Station, hire a Bird scooter and travel to work on the estate's private roads.

Bird also operates in over 100 other cities worldwide, including Salt Lake City, Madrid and Tel Aviv.

There are also race tracks where you can hire or use your own e-scooter to speed around legally.

  • What is the punishment if I break e-scooter law?

E-scooter hire is hugely popular in dozens of cities around the world. Credit: AP

Riding an e-scooter on the road is against the Road Traffic Act of 1988 and on the pavement against the Highway Act of 1835.

Unless you have a driving licence, insurance, helmet, road tax, a registration plate, and the vehicle meets power and speed requirements, you could face a £300 fixed-penalty notice and six points on your driving licence for riding on the road.

However, because these vehicles are governed by the same laws as other motor vehicles, depending on the crime, you could receive a much more severe punishment.

For example, if you are found to be driving dangerously or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could be convicted of offences leading to imprisonment and heavy fines.