Legalise e-scooters on the roads, MPs say
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The Commons Transport Committee has recommended that e-scooters should be legalised in the UK within the next 18 months.
The Government moved forward a trial of e-scooters this year, permitting some people to use rental e-scooters without formal training or having to wear a helmet on roads. The trial was brought forward from 2021, amid growing interest in e-scooters as an alternative to public transport in light of the need for social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Areas including Teesside, Hartlepool and Milton Keynes signed up for the trial phase.
The UK is one of the remaining few European countries to forbid the use of e-scooters on roads.
The committee has now wrapped up its inquiry into e-scooters ('E-scooters: pavement nuisance or transport innovation?'), concluding that they could be an effective and low-cost way to reduce short car journeys and improve air pollution.
They recommended that e-scooters should be opened up to everyone, even those without a license, and that helmets should be strongly recommended but not made a legal obligation.
“E-scooters have the potential to become an exciting and ingenious way to navigate our streets and get from place to place,” said committee chair Huw Merriman. “If this gets people out of the car, reducing congestion and exercising in the open air, then even better.”
The committee said that e-scooters should be promoted as an alternative to short car journeys, but not to more active forms of transport such as cycling or walking.
The committee also concluded that e-scooters – which can travel at speeds of more than 15mph – should be strictly kept off pavements as they can be dangerous to pedestrians. If e-scooters are legalised, the report said, the law should ensure that effective enforcement measures are put in place to eliminate this dangerous behaviour.
“We need to ensure that their arrival on our streets doesn’t make life more difficult for pedestrians and especially disabled people. Before proceeding with plans to legalise the use of e-scooters, local authorities and government must use the trials to monitor this closely, put enforcement measures in place and ensure they are effective in eliminating this behaviour,” Merriman said.
According to evidence given to the committee, local authorities will be likely to require extra funding to enforce new safety restrictions introduced to govern e-scooter use.
The committee also said that it is necessary to consider how to prevent rental e-scooters creating “street clutter” when they are abandoned on the pavement after use, such as by establishing e-scooter “parking hubs”. In 2018, dockless cycle hire company Mobike pulled its Manchester operations due to theft, dumping and damage of its hire vehicles.
“Safety will always be our top priority and our current trials are allowing us to better understand the benefits of e-scooters and their impact on public space, helping us to design future regulations,” a Department for Transport spokesperson said in a statement.
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