E-scooter riders in Plymouth can face arrest and court – while in North Devon riders are allowed to zoom around beyond the long arm of the law.
The confusion over the legal use of E-scooters has been created thanks to a series of Government and local council-sanctioned year-long trials currently underway in different parts of the country, including Southampton, Bristol, Bath, Yeovil, London and Barnstaple.
Earlier this month North Devon Council approved the running of a 12-month trial of E-scooters in the town, ostensibly to ease congestion and help air pollution levels. The authority was granted the right to a licence by the Department of Transport in November 2020 after working closely with Petroc College and scooter firm Voi Technology.
The aim is to enable students and staff to move around the college sites, improving access to the Sticklepath and Brannams campus to ease congestion during peak times.
North Devon Council has also said it hopes to extend the trial to tourists on a ‘hop-on hop-off’ basis later in the holiday season, providing a way for visitors to move around without causing additional traffic, congestion and pollution.
Southampton launched a similar scheme in March with hire-and-ride E-scooter charging points based around the city.
At present, you can buy an e-scooter but you can’t ride it on a UK public road, cycle lane or pavement, and anyone who does is committing an offence.
However, in the areas where the Department of Transport has granted a licence, private firms can rent out E-scooters, using the same road spaces as bikes, including cycle lanes.
It has understandably led to confusion for some and dismay that while some people in Devon can enjoy E-scooters, others in the same county could – and have – faced prosecution.
Remarkably it was as far back in 2019 when E-scooters were hailed as the answer to the nation’s congestion and pollution woes with “green” billionaire Adam Norris ploughing £10m of his own money into electric scooter firm Pure Scooters. His firm, now labelled Pure Electric, recently created its 18th UK outlet in Plymouth with the hope of having 500 stores across Europe by 2028.
Mr Norris’s company website stated: “Pure Electric firmly believes that the UK’s current road and transport legislation is outdated and ready for a much-needed update with a legalisation of all e-scooters.”
However, in March this year, it was reported in the The Times that the government’s decision on legalising the use of E-scooters was to be delayed by up to 12 months. This led to manufacturers criticising the government of being reckless and risk causing a rise in unregulated and ‘out-of-control’ E-scooters on the streets.
During the same month police across Devon and Cornwall issued a series of warnings regarding e-scooters, alerting unsuspecting buyers that the two-wheeled electric vehicles were not entitled by law to be ridden on the roads of pavements.
Earlier this month an E-scooter rider appeared at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court where they admitted driving while disqualified and driving without insurance.
The rider, Joshua Bishop was disqualified for a further 13 months. He was also fined £140 and ordered to pay £85 court costs. Bishop was understood to have been the first person in Devon and Cornwall to appear in court to face charges relating to the use of an E-scooter.
In response to questions regarding the apparent illegality of E-scooters in Plymouth, but their legality in other parts of Devon and further afield, Devon and Cornwall Police have attempted to clarify the situation for riders.
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson stated: “Privately-owned e-scooters can only be ridden on private land with the land owner’s permission. An e-scooter is classed as a powered transporter and they are treated as a motor vehicle and fall under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
“They are subject to the same legal requirements as motor vehicles. This includes MOT, tax, licensing, insurance, and specific construction regulations.
“It is against the law to ride an e-scooter on any public land. This includes roads, pavements, cycle lanes, beach promenades, bridleways, or any publicly-accessible land such as parks and car parks.
“If someone is caught using a powered transporter (e-scooter) on a public road, pavement, or other prohibited space, they are committing a criminal offence and could be prosecuted.
“The e-scooter could be seized, and the rider could end up with a fine, penalty points or even disqualification from driving.
“Not all riders know that it is illegal to ride one on public land. We advise that, if people are riding e-scooters, they should stop doing so immediately.
“The Government is running trials for renting e-scooters and Barnstaple is one of those approved sites.
“At the trial locations you can only legally ride an e-scooter that is hired. You cannot use a privately-owned e-scooter. You must have the category Q entitlement on your driving license to use an e-scooter. There are rules about how the trial locations will operate.”
One angry Plymouth rider told PlymouthLive: “This means that businesses can make money out of renting out E-scooters to people, but only in places where the Government says it’s okay – but members of the public can be fined for using their own E-scooters!
“It hardly seems fair, does it? It actually looks like the government has made a right hash of the whole E-scooter idea.”
The force has directed potential users of E-scooters to the government website for more information here.
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