Are Electric Scooters Popular in the UK? 2023 Swifty E-Scooter Opinion Survey Results
It’s April 2023 and the e-scooter debate is hotting up once more in the UK. As you may already know, electric scooters are yet to be permitted on the public highway in the UK. However, opinion is changing. A few years ago, the narrative in the press wasn’t short of “These things are a danger to society!” BUT now, in 2023 opinion HAS changed, and we think most people are thinking “what on earth are we waiting for!”
The fledgling British micromobility industry is crying out for governance. There are so many types of vehicle that are being designed in order to decarbonise our journeys, but can’t find a foothold in the market due to delay after delay from the UK Department for Transport.
We decided to collect our own data and find out what your opinions are about e-scooters! Please note that it is legal to buy or sell an e-scooter, and to ride one on private land. You can only ride one on the public highway if it is part of the government trial rental scheme (Bird, Lime, Voi etc).
NOTE: This survey was sent to all UK subscribers to the Swifty Newsletter in March 2023. There were 220 respondents. This survey is mainly considering opinions of privately owned light electric scooters which are currently only permitted to ride on private land in the UK.
Are electric scooters popular in the UK?
An overwhelming majority (90%) of respondents would consider purchasing and riding an e-scooter, while only 10% would not. Considering most respondents have not tried riding an electric scooter before, this shows that most people can readily understand the benefits. However, most (85%) people are waiting for the law to change in order to ride legally, proving the latent demand.
In fact, when asked why they would consider purchasing or riding an e-scooter once legalised, the reasons gave some confirmatory responses. In order of popularity:
75% would consider an e-scooter to swap short car journeys for a cleaner mode
70% would consider an e-scooter for fun and to enjoy the experience
65% would consider an e-scooter to save time
60% would consider an e-scooter to help decarbonise transport
51% would consider an e-scooter to save money
40% want to make cleaner journeys but can’t afford an electric car
The 10% of respondents who were not interested in riding an e-scooters offered reasons why not, and most mentioned that they thought the infrastructure for e-scooters was not ready yet, or that they were happy with cycling or a kick-scooter for their mode of choice.
Can e-scooters be a clean solution for those with barriers to cycling and walking?
There were further reasons which validate e-scooters as an additional mode of transport for people who have barriers to walking or cycling. The following results prove that in order to convert more people to using light personal mobility (and therefore reduce pollution and congestion), there needs to be more choice.
32% said walking or cycling was not an option due to physical limitations
28% said their journey was too far to walk
20% would consider an e-scooter because they don’t cycle
13% would choose an e-scooter because they don’t have space to store a bike or e-bike
When asked to share more detail about the physical limitations that prevented walking or cycling, the results were varied. This shows just how accessible e-scooters are - they are easy to ride! In some cases riding a scooter can help to build confidence to build up to cycling.
“After two hip replacements, I used an e-scooter for my commute. Compared to the bike which I found difficult because of the pedalling action difficult and I would lose my balance getting on and off, I found it ideal because of the standing stance. I actually found riding a scooter helped me to strengthen my new hip joints and it gave me the confidence to get back on my e-bike. I now enjoy both.” Steve, 64.
E-scooters help mobilise people who have physical limitations to cycling and walking
If you’ve ever had an injury or health problem, you’ll know how it limits your freedom and independence. This limited mobility and social isolation is a big reason why physical injury and mental health are closely linked. In short, humans need freedom and independence for well-being!
There is such a broad variety of needs within a population, and the lack of choice in transport is a limiting factor. Looking more closely at an e-scooters’ form factor, the obvious standing stance and electrically powered motor both equate to the high accessibility; If you can stand, you can scoot!
While most of our respondents might choose an e-scooter simply for the enjoyment of the experience, according to our survey, almost a third of respondents say that an e-scooter would be their solution because they can’t walk or cycle. There were 45 respondents. The majority (78%) are adults aged 25-64, while 22% are over 65-74. It was the variety of limitations that was staggering. These are normal adults who can’t walk or cycle - but would find a solution for their mobility needs in an electric scooter.
These physical limitations ranged from joint and limb limitations (73%),
chronic pain or arthritis 29% and “lifestyle” related chronic illnesses (heart, lungs, obesity) 33%, being the prevalent conditions.
“E-scooters are the future for the less able too. It allows someone who has difficulty to walk to be able to travel with ease. I have hip problems and cycling isn't always an option. The scooter allows me to travel without fatigue.”
Julie, 39, Chronic Pain, Spinal limitations, Cardiovascular limitations.
Can e-scooters be an accessible solution for people who have barriers to transport and personal mobility in general?
For anyone who’s experienced living in a major city like London, where you can happily go about life taking the super flexible public transport network for granted, the contrast to the rest of the UK is stark. Once outside the capital, the reliance on owning a car is normal. Without one, you may not be within walking distance of any public transport, and that train or bus might not cover your journey at any convenient time.
According to our survey, respondents stated that they would consider an e-scooter because of these mobility-limiting factors.
19% Would consider an e-scooter because they don’t drive
29% Don’t have access to convenient public transport
22% Would use an e-scooter to access public transport
21% Would use an e-scooter instead of public transport
So while some people might use an e-scooter trip instead of using public transport (21%), others would use one to access it (22%).
This again validates our belief that people simply need more choice in transport modes. The positive response aligns with the responding 82% who think e-scooters should be permitted on the shared paths and cycle lanes.
When will private e-scooters be legal in the UK?
It is looking really positive for e-scooters in the UK, however there’s still quite a bit of work to do. The Department for Transport are planning a Future Transport Bill which includes new rules for Low Speed Zero Emission Vehicles. However, bringing a new Bill to parliament is not a fast process, and the expectation is that it won’t only include e-scooters. There is significant policy need for throttle-only cargo bikes, cargo-scooters and other light modes that do not already conform to either the e-bike or the light-moped category. The soonest we might see change is late 2023 / early 2024.
What do you think? Please comment below!
I’m a Korean user. Korea, a transportation-reversing country, also allows personal mobility by law. It’s amazing that the law doesn’t allow it in the UK. It’s guaranteed by law, but there’s no problem if the law is strictly enforced.
This is a fascinating survey, well conducted and presented, that shows clearly that the demand for e-scooters is here and rising. I shows too that legislation is imperative to remove any ambiguity. Let us lobby government (DoT) to ensure that this route to easier travel, healthy exercise and a cleaner planet is with us soon!
Thank you for running this survey. Really insightful.