A new report has called for e-scooters to be legalised across London, arguing that this would be safer for riders and better for the environment.
You are currently not allowed to ride e-scooters on roads, unless they are part of the Transport for London (TfL) hire trial, in which case they can be ridden through certain boroughs, including Southwark.
There have been several high-profile incidents of people being hurt in south-east London involving e-scooters, including the death of a Rotherhithe rider in July. TfL figures show that three people have died in incidents involving e-scooters on roads in 2021. Some 165,000 trips have been made since the scheme began earlier this year.
The authors of the new report, which was sponsored by two e-scooter companies and published by the Centre for London think tank, said that the ban on using private e-scooters on roads is “often flouted”.
“Because all use of private e-scooters is illegal, it is harder to encourage safe and appropriate riding – on the road or in a cycle lane, with lights – over dangerous riding on a pavement, without lights, or at an unsafe speed.”
The report’s authors add: “National government should legalise private ownership and riding, as well as shared schemes, of e-scooters, that can be ridden safely alongside conventional bicycles.”
Rotherhithe e-scooter rider Michael Harris collapsed several weeks after breaking his leg in an alleged road collision on Long Lane in Bermondsey.
His friend, who asked not to be named, said he still wanted e-scooters banned outright despite the Centre for London’s proposal. “It’s just not a good idea, because it’s not easy to find someone responsible in a crash if you don’t have licence plates,” he said.
“I want them banned. At the moment it’s getting too far now with all the e-scooters we’ve got on the roads.”
The Centre for London says e-scooters are part of a broader group of “micromobility” vehicles like bicycles and e-bikes that will help Londoners reduce their use of cars and cut carbon emissions.
The think tank added that cyclists are “more likely than other Londoners to be male, white, and relatively affluent.” E-scooter users, by contrast, are probably more likely to be “ridden by a more representative group” of Londoners: i.e. more non-white people, more women and less well-off.
As well as the death of Mr Harris after the incident in Long Lane, we have reported on several other collisions involving e-scooters that have had serious consequences.
In July, a three-year-old child suffered life-changing injuries in Myatt’s Fields Park after being ‘hit by an unidentified e-scooter rider. Previously a man was left unconscious in the road in Rotherhithe after being allegedly knocked out by an e-scooter illegally riding on the pavement.
Elsewhere a teenager was killed in Bromley after he was ‘hit by a car’ while riding an e-scooter on July 18.
But the authors of the report said that e-scooters appear to be no more dangerous than riding a normal bike, although they cautioned that there is “little evidence” at the moment.
Josh Cottell, Centre for London’s research manager, said: “The shift to these emerging vehicles is already happening but we need the government to catch up and introduce policies which encourage safe ridership of e-scooters and e-bikes on our streets and ensures anyone who wants to use these vehicles is able to do so.
“Legalising private ownership and riding is the first step towards building a gold standard for micromobility in the UK, with Transport for London – and other equivalent authorities in towns and cities across the country given the powers to arrange shared schemes for micromobility vehicles as they emerge.”
Will Norman, the walking and cycling commissioner for TfL, said: “We recognise the opportunities presented by micromobility and through our e-scooter trial and ongoing work, we are looking at both the long-term role they could play in a green and sustainable future for the capital, as well as the role they can play in avoiding a car-led recovery from the pandemic.”