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Electric scooters, hoverboards, electric skateboards – what’s legal?

While we know transport laws are aimed at cars, bikes and pedestrians, where do we stand with all the alternative modes that are now available? While innovative companies seek to solve the problem of urban mobility and inner-city air pollution, consumers are left confused.

This category of electric vehicles is described as PLEV (Personal Light Electric Vehicle). Why does it even exist?

Some may see them as an extravagant toy, but the PLEV category offers a viable mode of personal and environmentally friendly transport for those who don’t want to use a bicycle. This can be perhaps because of physical reasons, safety concerns due to lack of cycling infrastructure, or simply if someone wants to try something a little different and who recognises that commuting by car can be avoided.

What is a PLEV?

A Personal Light Electric Vehicle or ‘Powered Transporter’ is typically a personal land vehicle with wheels, that is powered by an electric motor. Typically weighing less than 100kg, low powered and not subject to taxes or registration, and for personal use, often ‘last-mile’ solutions, such as our electric powered scooter, SwiftyONE-e.

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SwiftyONE-e foldable electric scooter

PLEVs in the UK

The transport laws in the UK are very outdated, and there have been years of call for updated legislation as these modes are not under legislation. Currently, PLEVs are illegal on public roads, cycle lanes or pavements, as they are motorised (rendering them illegal on cycle lanes and pavements) and low powered (rendering them illegal on roads). PLEVs are restricted to private land only with the land owners permission. For more info click: Dept for Transport publication on Powered Transporters.

I have been in recent contact with the DfT regarding the pavement legislation and they confirmed to me the following:

I note your suggestion that vehicles such as electric scooters should be allowed on pavements in England, as in other countries in Europe. However, the Highways Act of 1835 prohibits the riding of any ‘carriage’ on the footway and this includes personal transporters. There are no current plans to amend this legislation.” Department for Transport Nov. 2017

and about cycle lanes:

A cycle lane is defined in Schedule 1 of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 (TSRGD) as ‘part of a carriageway of a road reserved for pedal cycles which is separated from the rest of the carriageway’ …I can confirm that the Department has no current plans to amend this legislation to permit other types of vehicles to use the lane.” Department for Transport Nov. 2017

Read more about clean air in cities and the highway act of 1835 in our journal: https://swiftyscooters.com/blogs/journal/clear-air-highway-act-1835

PLEVs in Europe

There is currently a lot of change in this sector in Europe. Paris is embracing these 0 emission modes as part of their quest for a greener city by 2020, as stated in the Paris Agreement. Paris is leading the initiative under Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Hidalgo has called personal car ownership “archaic” and expresses the urgency for change: “unparalleled challenges like air pollution require unprecedented action”.

France: E-scooters are legal to 25kph in cycle lanes and roads.

Germany: E-scooters are legal on cycle paths up to 20kph. Ride age 14 yrs and over. No insurance or helmet requirements. [May 2019]

Austria and Switzerland: E-scooters are legal to 25kph in cycle lanes and roads.

However, during the tradeshow Eurobike 2017, German automotive companies BMW and MINI both presented an electrically powered kick-scooter to the market. With such large companies entering the PLEV market, the legislation looks likely to see a change in the near future.

Read more about kick scooters and the legalities in the journal:
ARE KICK SCOOTERS PAVEMENT LEGAL IN THE UK?

PLEVs in California

California embraced the sector in 2015, and Californians enjoy PLEV use up to 20 mph on cycle lanes, pavements and roads (40mph category roads). Riders must be over 16 and wear a helmet. More recently, e-scooters have been banned from the sidewalks in some cities.

PLEVs in New York City

Motorised scooters, hoverboards, Segways or skateboards used to be allowed but limited to 15mph as written in legislation in 2004. However, in 2013 legislation was amended to ban all motorized scooters in NYC.  (NYC v. Onix Guzman, ECB Appeal No. 1501125 (Dec. 17, 2015). The ruling also includes kick-assist scooters such as Flykly (NYC v. Niko Klansek, ECB Appeal No. 1200238 (May 31, 2012). Lawbreakers are subject to a $500 fine. More info here

PLEVs are different to eBikes due to the presence of pedals

eBikes, or Electrically Assisted Pedal Bicycles (EAPCs) are broadly legal on cycle lanes and roads, max 250W top speed 15.5mph rider aged over 14yrs. In the UK and Europe, the motor must adhere to standard EN15194, and the bike to EN14764. but do not require registration, tax or insurance. Find more info here

E-Scooters in Japan
In Japan, e-scooters are treated as motorised bikes, meaning they must have license plates and wing mirrors and require a drivers license to operate. E-scooters should be driven on the road. [updated, June 2019]

Conclusion

It is likely that legislation is likely to change as councils are put under more pressure to meet air quality targets and to reduce traffic congestion.

If you have any updated information about PLEV rulings in your area, please let me know info@swiftyscooters.com

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