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Having swept across Gen Z, e-scooters are now navigating the quantum leap into the consciousness of the baby boomer generation. Their convenience and speed as well as lightweight practicalities mean that their use is becoming more prevalent on our roads and footpaths.

E-scooters are just the latest in the trend of powered transporters to grace the public roads of Scotland. This version of personal transportation is no longer restricted to young people, with the recent accident involving music mogul Simon Cowell on his new e-bike as all the evidence needed that these new forms of transit are now cross-generational.

Their rise leads to obvious questions about whether they can be used and where they can be used. This blog will look at the legality of their use and whether the law at present is ready for the dawn of the e-scooter.

There is no specifically designed legal instrument for powered transporters like e-scooters. In the absence of specific regulations, these vehicles fall under the legal definition of a motor vehicle.

A motor vehicle is defined as a “mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads.” The Courts have affirmed that “powered transporters” and in particular, e-scooters, fall within the legal definition of a motor vehicle. E-scooters are therefore subject to all of the same legal requirements we come to expect with a motor vehicle.

The owner and user of an e-scooter is technically subject to MOT, tax, licensing and construction regulations. Due to the lack of rear lights, registration plate and their inability to signal, e-scooters are not permitted for road use. But can use ride your e-scooter on the pavement?

The law is clear on their use on footpaths in Scotland. Under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, a person who rides a vehicle on a footway, footpath or cycle track commits an offence. There is an exception for push bikes using cycle paths, however interestingly there is no such exception for the use of an e-scooter on a cycle path. The position is that e-scooters are not permitted on footpaths.  This extends to push bikes, e-bikes, and traditional scooters. A person convicted of riding on a footpath can be subject to a fine not exceeding £500.

With the law deeming them unsafe for use on roads and footpaths, should we be critical of the rise of E-scooters? They provide a fast and environmentally clean way to travel and could help to alleviate the burden on traditional transport links.

Their introduction this year as permissible rental vehicles raises questions of liability that will have to be considered carefully. The speed of certain e-scooters can be as high as 30 mph, albeit most are mechanically limited to 15.5 mph. This is still a significant speed in the event of a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian. It would be recommended that any rental cost of an e-scooter should incorporate liability insurance to ensure any injured party has appropriate means of seeking damages. 

Their implementation in Scotland will have to be approached with caution if we are to see the benefits not outstripped by drawbacks. One would assume that the position whereby rental e-scooters are legal for road use but privately owned e-scooters are restricted to private land will be untenable. They are commonplace within retails stores that are household names, with advertising usually aimed at customers looking for a means of city travel, in direct contravention of the present law.

One point remains clear that whilst we may see a change in the law regarding their use on roads, they will not be welcome on the pavements anytime soon.

Blog by Connor Kenny, Solicitor

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