A government consultation to make it legal to ride electric scooters on UK roads – as well as in cycle lanes – is due to be launched next month, The Times reports.
The newspaper says that it is proposed for them to be trialled in some cities ahead of a possible rollout across the country.
Currently, it is legal to buy and sell e-scooters here, but not to ride them on the public highway.
However, spend any time in a major city at rush hour and you will learn that it is a law that is regularly ignored but seldom enforced.
Secondary legislation would be needed to make them legal to ride on the roads, and rules regarding e-scooters is also said to be considered as part of an ongoing wider review of road traffic law.
According to The Times they could be fitted with speed limiters, with a maximum speed of 15.5mph and that riders would also be allowed to use cycle lanes.
However, it adds that there is disagreement within government over whether e-scooter riders should be required to wear helmets, which are not compulsory for UK cyclists – whether under their
Transport minister George Freeman commented: “We are considering this closely. The Department for Transport is committed to encouraging innovation in transport as well as improving road safety.”
US e-scooter hire firms are keen to break into the UK market, with Bird having already undertaken a trial at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is private land.
Rival Lime has its e-bikes for hire in London and Milton Keynes, while Uber-owned rival Jump is also present in the capital, but neither hires its e-scooters here as yet.
Nevertheless, e-scooters and other powered personal mobility devices are freely available to buy and are becoming an increasingly common sight on the country’s roads and footways.
Consultation over legalising them for use on the roads has been on the way for a while, with former transport minister Jesse Norman saying last March that the law would be reviewed.
Progress since then has been slow however, and in November, Fredrik Hjelm, the co-founder and CEO of Swedish e-scooter start-up Voi Technology said he believed Brexit was to blame.
He told BBC News he had spoken to UK government officials about changing the law, and warned that the country risked being left behind with others in Europe having already amended legislation.
“What we hear and feel is that Brexit is a big reason why things are moving so slowly."
“We don't have any high hopes of getting this through before Brexit, which I think is sad, because most other European countries have been quite quick in adapting and trying to find a good regulatory framework.”
Both here and abroad, including in places where they are legal, serious concerns have been raised about the safety of e-scooter riders.
In July last year, television presenter Emily Hartridge became the first person known to have been killed in the UK while riding one when she was run over by a lorry in South London.
Following her death the government reminded retailers and hirers of e-scooters that they had an obligation to inform people buying or renting them that they are not allowed on the road.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.