Our recent test of 10 popular electric scooters has helped us to identify key safety issues that all electric scooter users need to know about.
So if you’re thinking about giving electric scooters a try, either on one of the hire schemes popping up around the country or on a privately owned scooter on private land, it’s vital to understand what safety checks you need to make before you kick off and press that accelerator button.
Pre ride electric scooter checks
Before you even get on an electric scooter we’d strongly recommend conducting a quick inspection to make sure it’s in a safe condition to ride.
- Tyre check: Check the tyres are inflated properly by squeezing them firmly with your thumb and forefinger. If a tyre feel squashy to the touch, it’s under inflated and the scooter shouldn’t be ridden until its tyres are pumped up. Under-inflated tyres make a scooter much less stable and much more likely to skid out from under you while turning a corner.
- Wheel alignment: Check that the bolts on the stem are tight, so that the wheels and handlebar stay in alignment while you’re riding. We tested several scooters with loose bolts which led to the handlebars coming out of alignment with the wheel. This is a serious safety risk. To check the bolts, stand in front of the scooter and trap the front wheel between your feet, holding the wheel tightly in position. Then hold the handlebars and twist firmly in either direction. If the wheel and handlebars are still in alignment after this, it’s safe to ride.
- Grab a helmet: Although it’s not a legal requirement, you’ll probably feel a little bit safer if you’re protected. If you don’t already own a helmet, you can buy a new one for a fairly low cost – expect to spend £10 to £30. Headgear aside, you should also consider wearing light-coloured or florescent clothing while you’re riding. Again, this isn’t a must in the eyes of the law, but making yourself more visible in different levels of light is better for pedestrians and other road users.
Essential electric scooter safety tips
Whether you’re new to electric scooters or have ridden them before, it’s worth bearing in mind the following:
- Practice makes perfect: If you’re planning on trying a rental scooter, ask the company you’re working with to run you through some safety tips. If it’s your first go, consider walking it to a quiet residential street and getting comfortable on it there before you venture onto busier roads. Practice setting off, making a few manoeuvres and getting used to the brakes.
- Watch your ankles: Electric scooters are extremely heavy. The heaviest we tested weighed more than 24kg, but even the lightest is over 12kg. This means that even when they’re travelling at very low speeds, for example when you’ve just hopped off one, they’re still moving with quite a lot of force behind them. A few of our researchers found out to their cost during testing that an electric scooter tapping against your ankles can be very painful, and can even cause bruising or breaking of the skin.
- Watch out for potholes, tree roots and divots while riding: Of course this is sensible advice for any mode of transport, but electric scooters have narrow handlebars and their handling can be a little ‘twitchy’. This can make controlling severe jolts quite difficult. Some of the scooters we tested don’t do a very good job of controlling vibrations, so much so that if a severe jolt takes you by surprise your hands could come off the handlebars.
- Indicating to other road users: Signalling on an electric scooter is very difficult – because if you’re signalling left you need to take your hand off the brakes, and if you’re signalling right you need to take your hands off the accelerator. We’d advise signalling any turns well in advance of completing the manoeuvre so that you can have both hands on the handlebars while completing a turn. Where possible, for example if stationary at a junction, you should make any other road users aware of where you intend to go before you set off.
- Skidding: During our electric scooter test, we completed an emergency stop on each of the 10 scooters we tested. Only two of the scooters came to a halt without skidding. This means that if you need to stop in an emergency you should get used to controlling a skid on a scooter. If you want a scooter that doesn’t skid, take your pick from our .
- Hills: Most of the scooters we tested can’t handle even shallow gradients, let alone the type of steep hills you can find in most UK cities. If there’s a big hill up ahead, many scooters will trundle to a halt, so get prepared to hop off and push a very heavy scooter up the hill.
- No passengers: Electric scooters are designed for one person only. It’s not safe to carry a passenger. There isn’t room on the scooter’s standing board for two people, and the addition of an extra person can suddenly shift the balance of the scooter unexpectedly, leading to both passengers falling off.
- Don’t hang anything on the handlebars: Sensible advice for bike riders too of course, but electric scooters tend to have narrower handlebars and the handling is more sensitive than bikes. Hanging anything from either handlebar is an unnecessary risk and will put even an experienced rider off balance.
- Use the power settings sensibly: Nearly all electric scooters have three power settings. Usually, eco, standard and sport. If it’s your first ride, use the standard setting rather than ‘sport’ while you get used to how the scooter handles.
- Rain: Not only will rain make braking distances longer, and increase the chance of skidding, but also most of the private electric scooters you can buy aren’t designed for use in the rain. You can see in our which ones will work in the rain, and which ones won’t.
Our tests of electric scooters
The consensus from our panel of researchers that tested these scooters is that with a bit of practice, and a sensible approach to riding an electric scooter, it needn’t pose any more risk to the rider than riding a bike.
Having said that, we would recommend following the tips and observations we’ve made during our electric scooter tests.
How we tested electric scooters
You can’t legally ride electric scooters on the roads or pavements in the UK, so to test them we hired Brooklands Tranport Museum in Surrey and made use of its graded test hill.
As well as a tough hill test, we conducted tests for acceleration, braking, maneuverability, top speed, road vibration on a variety of surfaces, and much more. We even got a panel of researchers to rate each scooter for ride comfort, carrying and other ease of use factors.