As far as I'm aware, there is no legal definition for kick-scooters and no advice on where to ride written into UK law. The purpose of this blog is to identify some useful legislation and help us to ride safely on our scooters.
The UK transport laws are outdated, and finding anything helpful on this subject is almost impossible. As with all true innovation, the law tends to follow, and perhaps the pure nature of innovation is in breaking the rules! But it's not helpful when we just want to scoot around safely, and there are frankly no rules to guide us. Please note that some important parts of the legislation vary between England, Wales and Scotland.
Need to Know
- Kick-scooters are defined as “A human-powered light land vehicle with a handlebar, deck and wheels propelled by a rider's foot pushing the ground or ‘kicking’”. It is important to recognise that kick-scooters are not the same as a bicycle, as a bicycle is defined by its mechanical forward propulsion by way of cranks and pedals.
- Kick-scooters should be ridden on the pavement, footpath or segregated cycle lane, and not a busy main road. As kick-scooters have no mechanical propulsion, they are slower and it would be dangerous to share the space on the road with motorised vehicles.
- Kick-scooters should be ridden on the pavement or footpath BUT do not have right of way on the pavement or footpath. Scooter-riders should always be prepared to stop or slow down to give way to pedestrians. If an accident were to occur, there may be legal implications on the scooter-rider, as pedestrians always have right of way.
- Kick-scooters should be ridden with caution. Any careless or dangerous riding (anywhere) that causes injury to another person could be liable to prosecution under the Offenses Against the Persons Act 1861.
Read more about the scoot commute in the journal:
Five unexpected outcomes after a year of the scoot commute.
Are kick-scooters pavement legal in England and Wales?
Finding anything helpful that is written into law about whether kick-scooters are legal on pavements is near impossible. The debate around this issue revolves around the 1835 Highway Act, Section 72. This is the law that renders cars and bicycles illegal on pavements.
“If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon.”
- The Highways Act 1835 Section 72 (England and Wales)
Firstly, when we say “pavement” in legal terms, we mean “footpath” which is defined by being by the side of the road.
Secondly, neither bicycles or cars (or scooters for that matter) were in existence in 1835. The legal status for a bicycle as a “carriage” was defined in the 1888 Local Government Act, Section 85, allowing bicycles to share the road. This law extended the definition of “carriage” and the term started to include “bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes and other similar machines”. In 1903, the Motor Car Act was introduced. Since then, motor cars are classed as “carriages”, giving cars and bicycles the same road rights.
Do Kick-Scooters have Right of Way?
When it comes to pavements, we have to talk about the right of way because of this catch-all definition of “carriage”. What is the law around the use of pavements? In 2006, the BBC stated that “scooters and skateboards cannot legally be used on pavements…as they have no right of way over pedestrians”. Pedestrians having right of way does not mean the same thing as scooters being illegal on pavements. There is no clear specification that says that scooters cannot share the pavement with pedestrians. Local bye-laws can specify otherwise, therefore it’s always recommended to check with your local authorities.
Are kick-scooters pavement legal in Scotland?
In Scotland, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everybody the right to use non-motorised vehicles on most land in Scotland, including roads, tracks, and paths. Apart from trampling over gardens or disturbing working farm-yards, you can walk, ride your bike, kick-scooter or horse on any path, road or field margin.
Are children’s kick-scooters pavement legal in the UK?
There is no legislation currently prohibiting children’s kick-scooters on the pavements in the UK. There may be local by-laws which prohibit scooter-riding in pedestrianised areas which would be identified by signage. Technically, children cycling on pavements is illegal, but it is also worth noting that children under the age of 10 do not have criminal responsibility.
Can a kick-scooter be defined as a "velocipede"?
Section 72 of the Highway Act of 1835 prohibits cycling on footpaths, which was amended by Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1888 that forbids velocipedes and other similar machines to use footpaths. If we would want the kick-scooter to share the road with bikes and cars, we might argue that the definition of “velocipede and other similar machines” might include kick-scooter. However, it could be argued that like the definition of a bicycle, the absence of pedals omits a kick-scooter from this category. At the time of the legal amendment in 1888, the velocipede is used to describe early forms of the bicycle, such as a penny-farthing, where the seated vehicle was propelled by cranks and pedals attached to the front axle.
Read more about the best folding adult scooter in our journal:
Best folding adult scooter, SwiftyONE, reviewed.
Bicycle and Scooter Infrastructure
Cyclists commonly use the pavement alongside dangerous roads or as a safer option for child cyclists. In both instances, the cyclist risks a fine because it is technically illegal. Since the 1980 Highway Act was introduced, cycling on footways is punishable with a fixed penalty notice of £30 (riders over 16 yrs), but this can vary depending on the local council bye-laws. Where the cycle infrastructure is inadequate, it is dangerous and sometimes the pavement is the only safe option for cyclists, particularly children. The lack of infrastructure for bikes plays a big factor when it comes to encouraging motorists to change their behaviour and habits. The dangers cycling brings with it in the UK is very off-putting for many people, so they will continue to drive their cars. Even for short distances.
Kick-scooting has, just as cycling, seen a rise in popularity over the last few years. Where commuter routes are cramped, there are miles of traffic conjunctions and public transport is getting very expensive, scooting provides a fun and fast alternative to walking on safer routes. The legality of scooters on the pavement in the 21st century should be embraced, and also defined in legislation. Scooter infrastructure is already existing: pavements, footpaths and cycle paths.
Electric Scooters and The Law
Electric powered scooters fall in a different category compared to human-powered kick-scooters. In 2006, e-scooters and self-balancing Segways were banned from public pavements in the UK. This happened when DFT invoked section 72 of the 1835 Highway Act. Segways were also banned from roads because they did not comply with the EU vehicle certification rules. In 2015, self-balancing hoverboards were also banned from public areas. All of these can be still used on private land.
A more progressive attitude to personal electric mobility vehicles is seen in other regions around the world. California granted “electric motorized boards” (including e-scooters) legal on sidewalks and highways in 2015. In France, non-motorized scooters are considered pedestrian mobility aid and therefore have the right to be used on sidewalks. Scooter riders are only allowed to do so when they do not interfere with the movement of other pedestrians, respect pedestrian traffic lights, use protected passages to cross the road and do not exceed a speed higher than 6 km/h. In other European countries, similar laws are in place. Some countries also allow e-scooters on cycle lanes, providing they won’t pass the 25km/h limit.
You can find more detailed information about electric scooters and the law in our journal: Electric scooters, what’s legal?
My commute starts with 1/2 mile on a country A road . When I’m running I run on the righthand side facing the traffic ( there is no footpath) . My inclination is to scoot facing the traffic too- it feels safer and if I see a big truck coming I can stop and go on to the verge. What do you recommend?
i have just purchased a electric scooter, however when i receive it, because the law prohibits use, unless on private land; I will take the battery off making it a manual kick scooter. i will await legislation and an update of necessary laws to allow electric scooters to be lawful, as this will assist a greener commute for many individuals. My only hope is that they licence all scooters. A more efficient way to licence and insure any vehicle would be for the INDIVIDUAL to be insured and not the vehicle.
I would presently take a snapshot of the relevant law and keep it in my mobile, to show police officers that it is NOT against the law to ride a kick scooter, as long as the pedestrians have right of way on footpaths.
Best of luck everyone of you kick scooter users, in keeping safe
BBC has again today published ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48106617 )
“Normal scooters, those without motors, are not allowed on pavements or cycle paths – but they can be used on roads.”
I would love BBC to clarify the source of this.
I ride my Swifty on footpaths 70%, cycle lanes 20% and roads 10%. I get told off about once per month normally as my Swifty is mistaken for a Brompton.
I can’t see any reason why I can’t ride on roads, particularly in the countryside where there aren’t footpaths. I can scooter just as fast as I can ride (except uphill!). I’m certainly as quick as those hand propelled cycles that disabled riders have. Also are we allowed to scoot on countryside rights of way footpaths unlike horses and bikes? There’s another category for non mechanically propelled so presumably that would be ok too? I have been riding scooters (swiftly style) for over 20 years and I’ve only ever been told off for riding it in the supermarket 🤣
It’s great to hear that you’re enjoying your scoot-commute. It really does make a massive difference. A hefty question mark still hangs above the definitive legality of kick-scooters, but The Metro contacted the Department for Transport and were told that there was no existing case law on the subject. So, the law doesn’t currently state that it’s legal nor illegal. You can read more here – https://metro.co.uk/2018/07/02/is-it-worth-using-a-scooter-to-commute-to-work-7590325/.
With that said, as long as you exercise caution while riding, I’d say you’d be fine if you’re stopped as long as you establish that your scooter does not have a motor.
Hope this helps!
This is really useful. I ride a kick scooter in London every day for the past 18 months and it changed my life. It effectively halves my commute time. However… with the proliferation of e-scooters, there are many articles in the press about potential fines and I am really worried about being stopped by police who will not have the full legal picture and try to issue me with a fine just because they don’t understand the difference between electric and kick scooters. Or because they’ve been instructed to make an example or… anything really. The norm and convention in London has been to protect cars and to fine cyclists, so I’m feeling really exposed being at the bottom of the hate chain.
What do I tell them if they do stop me?
A BBC article dated 15th July 2019 and titled, “How safe are electric scooters?”, states that, “Normal scooters (without motors) are not allowed on pavements or cycle paths but there are no laws to prevent them being used on roads.”
It would be really interesting to find out where they sourced that information!
What is your source for “2. Kick-scooters should be ridden on the pavement or footpath and not the road. As kick-scooters have no mechanical propulsion, they are slower and it would be dangerous to share the space on the road with motorised vehicles.” ?
I can see absolutely no reason why kick-scooters should not be used on the road, if the rider chooses to. Riding on the pavement puts the rider at risk of hitting pedestrian or an obstruction (kick-scooters often have very small wheels and can easily be deflected (though not Swifty scooters)) and ending up on the road – at least if a rider is on the road there is good chance that other road users drive/ride/run/walk/crawl with a suitable level of caution.
The mistake that a lot of pavement cyclists make is thinking that the prohibition on pavement cycling exists to protect pedestrians – IMHO, cyclists will typically come off worse in a collision than any pedestrian they might collide with. Road users tend to be more aware of their environment than pedestrians, most pedestrians would never consider looking over their shoulder before suddenly and rapidly changing direction – they pose a serious risk to anyone who is sharing the pavement and travelling faster than walking speed. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, if you collide with a pedestrian on the pavement, there’s no guarantee that you will remain on the pavement – and not end up in the path of a vehicle who’s driver was previously oblivious to your existance.