Are e-scooters the transport of the future?

Blog post posted on 11/02/20 |

E-scooters have got me out of the house and onto both radio and television over the last year or so. I don’t get to travel as far round the country as much as I used to, so I can’t comment on the rest of the UK – but in London the legal position is quite a long way behind the curve. E-scooters are a fairly common sight, sometimes just lost amongst the other two-wheeled traffic, sometimes noticeable for what they are. 

Courtesy of BBC Breakfast about this time last year I finally had a go on an e-scooter across the Olympic Park in East London, where there is a private pathway and it is legal to ride one on, and confirmed exactly what I suspected – in acceptable weather conditions, it’s great fun!  

There are quite a variety of e-scooters in use on our roads and paths – I looked out the window at home only yesterday and watched someone go past on what was effectively a single wheeled version of the idea. The thing they have in common is that they are all illegal to use on the road, pavement or cycle-path. The government have promised some proposals around them – what they will be we don’t know as I write this – which are due “soon”. 

How the government choose to tackle the issue will be interesting to see – which bit or bits of the road infrastructure (road, cycle lane, bus lane, pavement) they suggest should be open to them, or whether they decide to continue the status quo and maintain their illegality. Whether they suggest controls around their speed, or size, or…  there are so many options possible it is almost mind-boggling. 

Another tricky thing to manage is how to balance the issues around safety around the advantages of taking the traffic off the road as cars. Whether there will actually be a real change away from the car to e-scooters, or in fact what they would do is take people off the bus or the pedal cycle or from walking, so make little or no difference to congestion or emissions, is also a real question. My own guess is that these are exactly where the main users would migrate from, rather than out of their cars, but like most of us I’m just guessing there. 

The other big question is whether they are going to be a lasting part of travel scene, or like rollerblades and skateboards, be something of a fad, fading away over a couple of years and leaving just a tiny presence in road use. Sadly, my crystal ball is away being polished so unavailable at the moment – does anybody else want to use theirs?

By Peter Rodger, IAM RoadSmart head of driver advice

*Image of Peter Rodger's taken from BBC Breakfast on 28th November 2018.