A Statement on E-scooter Use and Safety in the UK

Electric scooters are a relative newcomer to the world of eco-friendly personal transport, and like all manner of new technologies, their arrival has been met with a mixture of excitement, intrigue and trepidation. The UK government has set a target to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by 78% between now and 2035, so it’s no surprise that all eyes are on the products and services that can help meet that goal – and here at The E-Scooter Co., we think it’s time that the e-scooter industry as a whole stood up against misleading headlines that have been appearing online in relation to e-scooter use.

Claim: E-scooters are involved in large numbers of injuries and fatalities on UK roads.

Fact: There are far fewer injuries and fatalities relating to e-scooter use than there are to cycling, motorbike riding and even walking.

To look at some of the headlines around electric scooter use, you’d be forgiven for thinking that taking a trip on an e-scooter was risky business. But in comparison to other modes of personal transport, e-scooters make up a far smaller proportion of accidents, injuries and deaths on UK roads. We’d go so far as to argue that the more cars are taken off UK roads thanks to alternative personal transport methods, like e-scooters and e-bikes, the safer everyone’s journeys will become.

Transport Type

Reported Fatalities in 2020

Reported Serious Injuries in 2020

Reported Minor Injuries in 2020

Pedestrian

355

3909

10454

Motorcycle

282

4118

9170

Bicycle

140

3824

12267

E-Scooter

1

210 injuries in total June 2020 - May 2021 (data not available by severity)


Claim: The safest place for e-scooters to be used is in main traffic lanes

Fact: E-scooter speeds are equivalent to pedal cycles, and allowing e-scooters to use cycle lanes would improve safety 

It’s important to consider that currently, e-scooter riders are not allowed to use cycle lanes in many parts of the UK. Despite 50 UK councils now offering scooter hire schemes, meaning more and more scooter riders taking to the UK’s roads, the limitations on using cycle lanes means that those who are riding scooters must stay in the same lane as cars, buses, lorries and other large vehicles, rather than the safer areas designated for cyclists. That’s despite the fact that e-scooter speeds are widely in line with those of push bikes and e-bikes, not with those of petrol-powered vehicles.

Currently, the only e-scooters legally allowed on UK roads are those with a maximum speed of 15.5mph. While city traffic will often be travelling at anything from 20mph to 40mph, the average beginner cyclist travels at around 11-14mph, making cycle paths a far safer place for e-scooter riders to be.

The widespread ban on use of cycle lanes presents an even greater risk for heavier adults using e-scooters, who are unable to reach the same top speeds as other riders and are therefore more likely to be overtaken at close range by larger vehicles. We believe that a crucial step in keeping e-scooter riders safe, without presenting a risk to other road users, is to allow the use of e-scooters in all of the UK’s bicycle lanes. 

Claim: Council-run scooter rental schemes are enough, private ownership isn't needed

Fact: Privately-owned scooters have longer life cycles than those in rental schemes, and are therefore more eco-friendly in the long run

Widespread e-scooter use has the power to decrease congestion on the UK’s roads, and to improve public health as well as the health of our planet by cutting emissions and reducing air pollution nationwide. But to ensure that this new method of transport is truly eco-friendly, and truly accessible, we believe it’s important that users have the option of riding their own e-scooter. That’s because the life cycle of a rental e-scooter is, based on trials so far, much lower than the life cycle of a scooter that is privately owned.

Someone who has bought their own electric scooter will take care of it and maintain it, to protect their personal investment. But an issue with rental trials around the world has been that street-side scooter schemes are subject to vandalism, with scooters suffering from constant exposure to the elements coupled with a lack of necessary maintenance. Instead of offering a lifespan of several years for every battery and scooter manufactured, rental schemes sometimes leave scooters with a lifespan of just a few months, which drastically reduces their environmental benefits.

Allowing the use of privately-owned e-scooters on UK roads would also ensure that this eco-friendly and affordable method of personal transport is available to everyone, not just those who live in urban areas with rental schemes. 

A final word

Scare-mongering stories may make for interesting headlines, but the facts and figures around e-scooter use tell another story. Electric scooters are here to stay, and though we are disappointed to see inaccurate arguments against their use often being shared by major news outlets, we know that people all over the UK and around the world are excited by the prospect of this new form of sustainable, compact personal transport.

Electric scooter ownership must be encouraged if the UK is to meet its emissions targets, and while rental schemes are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough. We look forward to a change in legislation in the very near future which will allow e-scooter owners to travel legally and safely all over the UK, and until that day comes, we will continue to educate riders about the safe use and proper maintenance of electric scooters.


Sources:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/reported-road-accidents-vehicles-and-casualties-tables-for-great-britain
https://www.rospa.com/media/documents/road-safety/factsheets/e-scooters-factsheet.pdf 
https://metro.co.uk/2021/05/19/e-scooters-rental-trials-blamed-for-hundreds-of-injuries-14612258/
https://qz.com/1561654/how-long-does-a-scooter-last-less-than-a-month-louisville-data-suggests/