After we’d watched video of a man using an e-scooter to transport a fridge (and stopped laughing) we realised we’d perhaps stumbled across the next big thing in micro mobility.
Don’t get us wrong, we’d rather see towns and cities full of cyclists and cargo bikes, but we don’t agree with fevered reports in the national press framing e-scooters as a scourge of the nation – we believe they have a valuable role to play in coaxing drivers from their cars. And cargo-carrying designs could be part of the answer.
Cargo e-scooters could become a socially acceptable form of SUV – a small, lightweight and relatively clean way of moving stuff around towns and cities. These tiny vehicles could have all kinds of applications, so we were pleased to discover it wasn’t just fridge man who’d had the idea. EV4 have produced two prototype cargo e-scooters which were recently reviewed by Youtube channel WrongWay!
The prototypes look well engineered although the cargo tubs look restrictive – they certainly wouldn’t swallow a washing machine.
Electric scooters and UK law
Under current British law, e-scooter riders face a £300 fixed-penalty notice and six points on their driving licence for using them on the road or pavement. The law classifies e-scooters as motor vehicles, but their legal status is further hampered by the fact they do not have a seat which is currently a requirement of all road going vehicles.
With the exception of the various trial schemes dotted around the country, you can’t ride an e-scooter on a public road, on pavements or cycle lanes. You also have to be 18 or over to use one.
Much of the reaction to e-scooters technology echoes the moral panic that accompanies any new and disruptive technology. When trains were a new thing, some feared passengers would die spontaneously when trains reached 50 mph.
While it’s clear e-scooters must be subject to regulation, the way the technology is portrayed in the media is little more than a distraction from the major threats on the roads. For example, the technology being used in the current trials of e-scooters on UK roads includes ”Rapid Geofence Detection’ which activates in 0.3 seconds and ‘Dangerous Riding Detection’, which warns of unsafe behaviours in real time.
Transport journalist Carlton Reid has been quick to highlight the double standards: “…if all this incredibly accurate safety tech is available for slow speed e-scooters why the holy hell isn’t it already included on high speed motor vehicles?”
When will e-scooters be legal on UK roads?
Following the current e-scooter trials, there’s likely to be lengthy discussion following which e-scooters will be probably be classified in the same way as electric bicycles. In other words, legal to use on public roads and cycle lanes and with no requirement for registration or insurance, but limited to a speed of 15.5mph. It’s unclear whether helmets will be mandatory as it would hardly be practicable for e-scooter riders to wear motorcycle helmets.
There have been concerns raised that a surge in e-scooters would discourage folk from walking or cycling, but however credible this argument, it’s just as likely e-scooters will draw drivers from their cars for short trips.
Are e-scooters dangerous?
Department for Transport statistics, Reported Road casualties Great Britain, annual report: 2020, reveal was one death, 128 serious injuries and 355 slight injuries for the year. Given nobody knows how many miles were travelled by e-scooter, it’s impossible to quantify the risk. However, in common with other vulnerable road users, it’s likely the main danger faced by e-scooter riders on the roads is the drivers of heavier, faster vehicles.
Much faith is being put in electric vehicles, but electrifying cars will not address the problems of traffic congestion, road danger, urban sprawl and wasted space for parking. There’s no doubt that e-scooters have a valuable role to play in coaxing drivers from their cars – the current uncertainty over their future legal status does little more than put that potential on hold.
The ethical choice
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.