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Department for Transport to fast-track rental E-scooter trials as legalisation moves a step closer

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

The Department for Transport (DfT) have announced that they are fast-tracking and expanding trials of rental e-scooters to “support a ‘green’ restart of local travel and help mitigate reduced public transport capacity”.

The DfT says it believes e-scooters offer the potential for fast, clean and inexpensive travel that can also help ease the burden on transport networks and allow for social distancing.

“Authorities and operators have learned many lessons since the emergence of the first dockless systems,“ the DfT said. Adding: “The UK now can embed these lessons and enhance the safety, integration and benefits of e-scooters as part of large-scale trials.”

The DfT say these trials will create the evidence necessary to guide final decisions about whether and – if so – how to fully legalise e-scooters.

A guidance document has been published, which is intended to inform local areas and e-scooter operators about next steps in the design, implementation and management of trials.

A spokesperson for the DfT said: “Given the need to move rapidly, close collaboration between the DfT, local areas and e-scooter operators will be necessary.”

The guidance document states that the DfT will:

  • coordinate and support the development of proposals, working closely with local areas

  • prepare and introduce the legal changes that allow trials to proceed

  • let and manage a contract for central monitoring and evaluation across all trial areas

  • provide final approval for trial proposals that meet our requirements.

Local areas will:

  • consider their trial requirements and objectives together with those set out by the department

  • work openly with e-scooter operators to understand how they can meet those requirements

  • put in place proportionate processes to assess, select and ultimately procure services from operators.

To help support what the DfT calls a "green restart of local travel", trials will be operational as soon as possible following necessary changes to legislation, which will come into force on 4 July.

The DfT added: “Given the need to establish trials swiftly, we expect that in most cases they will commence between the day legal changes come into force and the end of August 2020.“

The intention is then for trials to run for 12 months, with the trial period beginning in each area as and when e-scooters become available to the public. The option for trials to continue beyond this 12-month period will be built into the legal mechanism, but any extension would be subject to local/national government agreement.

For trials to take place, amendments are needed to existing regulations. In doing so, the DfT proposed to regulate rental e-scooter trials as similarly as possible to electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs).

The DfT believe in many ways e-scooters have a similar road presence to EAPCs and cycles; they are similarly sized with similar visibility for other road users.

Responses so far received from the ‘Future of transport regulatory review: call for evidence’ generally supported treating e-scooters like cycles and EAPCs, but the DfT has stated that during trials, however, e-scooters will continue to be classed as motor vehicles, meaning requirements to have insurance and the correct type of driving licence will continue to apply.

In the future, following trials, the DfT may look to amend the law to treat e-scooters more like EAPCs, which are not treated as ‘motor vehicles’ in law.

The Department for Transport has listed full details of the trials and proposed regulatory changes on their website.

Image credit: Pixabay


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