back to article Rental electric scooters to clutter UK street scenes after Department of Transport gives year-long trial the thumbs-up

Electric scooters are finally coming to the UK after the Department for Transport confirmed it would allow limited trials of rented two-wheelers from this weekend. The regulations permitting electric scooters come into force on Saturday and will last for 12 months. The DfT expects the first schemes to go into place next week …

  1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

    Rental vs privately owned

    So if I rent it from a commercial company (which owns the scooter, so effectively is 'privately' owned rather than 'state owned'), it's ok to use on the roads, but if I own it myself (privately owned), it isn't?

    Anyone seen the basis for this?

    Is it because it's a trial, they trying to keep numbers down in the first instance?

    An insurance issue?

    Are there conditions of operation that apply? (the article refers to LA's running rental schemes, or allowing third party operators to do so)

    1. DrewWyatt

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      From reading other sources, the rationale is that rental firms will have decent scooters, not just £15 tat off ebay and amazon.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Rental vs privately owned

        It also presumably means there are a only a few known entities responsible for looking after them, so you know who to complain to when they start being abandonded around the place.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Rental vs privately owned

          A personally owned scooter is more likely to be abandoned. Chained up to somebody else's railings like a bike, maybe, but only casually dumped if it's been stolen.

          1. Blackjack Silver badge

            Re: Rental vs privately owned

            False, take a look at what has been happening in the USA with rental electric scooters and rental bikes. All those companies crashed and burned and hundreds of the things ended just abandoned on the street. Some of the bikes were recycled but the scooters became trash the cities that allowed them in the first place had to clean up. And this was before the Coronavirus!

          2. Dr_N Silver badge

            Re: Rental vs privately owned

            Rental scooters are a plague. Just take a trip to Austin or any other US city* condemned to deal with them

            *Maybe not right now, obviously.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Trollface

            Re: Rental vs privately owned

            A personally owned £300 scooter is more likely to be abandoned than an burner phone App rented one for £30? What planet are you from and where do I apply to get a trip there? ;)

          4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Rental vs privately owned

            I think the good Doctor meant "... les likely ..."

            Remember, folks, context is a real thing.

          5. Spanners Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Rental vs privately owned

            If I have spent MY money on getting myself a scooter, I am less likely to abandon it in the middle of the pavement. For comparison, I have a bike. Although I have not ridden it for a while, it is chained up in my garage, not randomly thrown away.

            If I rent something, I have no further interest in it once the rental is over. If they are "dockless", I may park it at the side of the road but I may be a neat freak. Many others will just abandon it wherever...

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Rental vs privately owned

              You may be a neat freak and prop it up tidily out of the way and then some "youths" stroll by and decide to have a scooter tossing contest.

          6. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rental vs privately owned

            "A personally owned scooter is more likely to be abandoned."

            This is BS. Here in North I see company scooters abandoned *everywhere*. Basically whole idea of them is that *you leave them anywhere* and you pay only the time you used.

            Every one of them is literally abandoned the second user doesn't need it anymore. To that spot.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Rental vs privately owned

        I have the exact same model the rental companies have. I could even add a speedo and indicators and wing mirror to make it a legal "motorbike". I think the only thing I cannot add are motorbike validated tires, as it's rims are too small.

        Strange only they are allowed to put their bike on the road, but if I buy one of theirs, it's suddenly illegal. :(

        1. JohnMurray

          Re: Rental vs privately owned

          The rental ones will include insurance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      It will certainly be interesting to see who the first companies to capitalise on this are and what their relationship with certain ministers is

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It will certainly be interesting to see

        and if it's Dom and his pal Boris, or any other usual suspect, what then? :/

    3. Def Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      It's claimed that this is to prevent a flood of poorly maintained "vehicles" onto the roads.

      I'm not sure I follow that logic, given bikes are allowed on the roads. But this is the best the UK government can do these days, it seems.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: Logic

        You suspect logic behind any of this? Perhaps a corrupt, devious form. I suspect one or more croney mates are involved and want to ensure only their snouts can be at the that trough.

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: Logic

          And why explicitly require them to have 'wheels arranged in line, one behind the other' ? I don't see anything more dangerous about the Segway concept, and it's a good deal more interesting and flexible.

          1. erm-dave

            Re: Logic

            I don't think you've ever been on a Segway then... they're way more dangerous than a scooter. I've been on both during European city breaks... and really enjoyed both. They're a great way to see lots of the city.

            On a guided segway tour I saw our guide come off twice into the road, one time being flung into the centre of the road (luckily a quiet side road) when one wheel hit the kerb, and the other when trying to come to a quick stop was flung under the back of a parked car as one wheel gripped and the other slid (shiny cobbles). That doesn't happen with a scooter. Scooters are narrower so also less likely to be hit by a passing car, which on a segway would give the same flinging motion to the rider as the above two examples.

            Segways are great, but not for busy roads.

    4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      Insurance: rental companies can be easily policed to check they provide insurance cover for when the renter rides into an old lady at 15mph. Harder to police for privately owned ones. If there is a requirement for licensing them, displaying insurance etc people won't bother. If they can be treated the same as bicycles (legal even with electric assistance) then the problem goes away.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      "Anyone seen the basis for this?"

      The rental company will be paying some sort of licensing to the local authority or DfT. You don't pay them anything - except, of course, everything you're paying already.

    6. NightFox

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      I guess this way it's easier to ensure that the scooters remain compliant in terms of max speed, acceleration, likelihood of bursting into flame etc. Allow privately owned scooters and you'll lose that control.

      1. Snowy
        Thumb Up

        Re: Rental vs privately owned

        Yes you only have to look at how some electric bike have been modified to see why they only want rented ones on the road.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rental vs privately owned

          It's a relatively easy bit of modification to make an electric bike that will go faster than 15mph, if you're capable of tinkering, but it shouldn't be done. If you really want to go faster than 15 mph, get a licence, an electric moped and insurance. Or alternatively, ditch the motor, and get a decent quality bike, which will be quicker than 15 mph after you've done a few weeks of riding.

    7. EBG

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      I have posted before, and I post again. There is an unholy alliance of business wanting MaaS, and big gov control freakery who are determined to stamp out private ownership of the means of mobility. So, sure, you can privately own and fly an aircraft but don't expect the same freedom with the emergent tech.

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: Rental vs privately owned

        You have to have a pilots licence to fly a plane. That comes after an average of 40 hours tuition. And a medical. And refresher training. And an expensive "MOT" on your plane, every year. And the insurance cost makes you stop moaning about the cost of your car.

        Personally, I'm pissed-off at the amount of these things going along the road at night.....I passed one going along the A6 dual carriageway last night!!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rental vs privately owned

          Not so - you can fly gliders, hang-gliders, para-motors etc all without a formal pilots licence.

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Rental vs privately owned

            You can, but good luck doing it without any form of instruction. Not sure about the insurance angle in that case either.

        2. jh27

          Re: Rental vs privately owned

          > I passed one going along the A6 dual carriageway

          Your point being? What's so special about the A6 dual carriage way? It isn't a motorway. Are sections of it restricted? If not pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, push scooter riders all have greater right to use it than motorists. Doesn't seem all that unreasonable for electric scooter riders to use it, except that it isn't quite legal yet.

        3. NightFox

          Re: Rental vs privately owned

          Agree, dual carriageway or not, no way should planes be using the A6.

    8. Andy 97

      Re: Rental vs privately owned

      The rental company will have all the personal data of the rider. Certainly their bank details if nothing else.

      If they're an unpleasant type, riding around, knocking people over, it wouldn't take much effort to find them. Then there's the criminals who would see a £500-£1500 device as a new income stream. If they steal the scooter (as is likely to happen with private scooters), there will be no black market available to sell it-on.

      Quite a sensible way to roll this out.

  2. Efer Brick

    Err, haven't these electric scooters and unicycles for that matter been all over the streets of London for a few years?

    Certainly were legion where I worked, nr Southwark bridge

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Just knock them off. If they complain tell them to raise the matter to the Police, making sure to tell them you had a collision with them whilst illegally riding their Scooter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        Do you also walk through the street waving your arms at people? Idiots riding into others and riding where they should not are a problem.

        Not people with a different type of pedal or motor on their bike.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Coat

          I tend to have a problem with almost being knocked over.

          Something as simple as the corner of a building increases this and I find it always happens when I exit tube stations. I understand there isnt enough room but the small majority riding at 20mph on the pavement is not on.

      2. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

        "Just knock them off" - Oh dear, still having The Trouble then?

        Last time I was in the chemist I saw they had Viagra over the counter. Just tell them it's for 'a friend'...

  3. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo
    Thumb Down

    No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

    In my country, these scooters are geo-fenced to the inner city, they simply stop working if you go to the outer districts, which kind of negates their intended/advertised purpose. My place of work is well within city limits, yet outside the geo-fence. Thus, I would not be able to use one.

    The geo-fencing makes sense for the scooter rental company as it limits the service area. After all, some poor, underpaid souls need to collect/replace them using gasoline-powered vans each night. So much for clean, electically-powered mobility. From a potential user's perspective, the geo-fencing precludes meaningful use, i.e. inner-city commute.

    I mostly observe some kids driving them, themselves alone or with a passenger, for fun. If the scooters reduce any means of traffic, they reduce short walks, e.g. from the flat to the bus stop.

    What I could also observe over the last years, since they popped up in my city: rental scooters make people behave anti-socially. Scooters are left on the pavement at the very spot the driver steps off them. Hence, they block parts of the pavement next to the entrances of appartment buildings, at bus or tram stops. People drive them on the pavement with all the associated risks of relatively large relative velocities, overtaking from behind and slightly randomly walking pedestrians.

    I am not impressed by the contribution to society by the availability of rental electric scooters. I don't see many benefits, yet experience their downsides.

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      FAIL

      Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

      They're really not good here for much either.

      I don't see quite so many as I did a year ago, too, which suggests that the business model isn't really doing very well. Especially given that one of the firms doing it here just got taken over by a taxi company...

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

        Last time I was in Lisbon, it was actually cheaper to take a taxi than rent one of these.

        1. jh27

          Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

          Cheaper to get a taxi, perhaps, but probably not as quick or convenient (unless you have stuff to carry in your hands, and then a taxi becomes more convenient).

    2. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

      I think that throwing each abandoned scooter back into the road will be very effective at reducing car traffic.

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

      ... make people behave anti-socially.

      ... left on the pavement ...

      ... block parts of the pavement ...

      ... drive them on the pavement ...

      What you describe is exactly what has happened in my home city, more than 4.000 km. south of the ecuator.

      These contraptions are the bane of pedestrians and should not be allowed.

      Fortunately they are becoming less and less visible these days.

      ... don't see many benefits ...

      That's because there are no benefits to be had.

      Save for the pockets of the city authorities in bed with the owners of the rental company.

      O.

      1. Azamino

        Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

        Anti-social behaviour, blocking the pavement, parking on the pavement ... are you writing about scooter users or Audi drivers?

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

          "are you writing about scooter users or Audi drivers?"

          You missed out the word 'white'. It should be 'white Audi drivers'. As in the car is white, not the driver.

    4. NATTtrash Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: No they're not an effective means to reduce car traffic

      What I could also observe over the last years, since they popped up in my city: rental scooters make people behave anti-socially. Scooters are left on the pavement at the very spot the driver steps off them. Hence, they block parts of the pavement next to the entrances of appartment buildings, at bus or tram stops. People drive them on the pavement with all the associated risks of relatively large relative velocities, overtaking from behind and slightly randomly walking pedestrians.

      Same thing here.

  4. Azamino
    Thumb Up

    Luckily, no one would ever dream of downloading and printing off a Lime sticker to stick to their own scooter, would they ...?

    These scooters are not for me, but if it frees up a seat on the bus or a parking space at the station, I'm all for other people using them.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      There are also instructions on The Internet, for recycling abandoned/salvaged/bought at auction commercial scooters. This generally involves replacing the custom controller with the manufacturer's original controller, or a Chinese(for that is where they all originate) copy thereof, thereby restoring its original functions.

      Sccoters here in the US were scooped up by cities with whom Lime had no authorization to operate, and auctioned off as junk by the cities. Also, recovered from skips, ditches and such, damaged but repairable if you found two or more. For a while, there was a thriving rebuild business going.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      "Luckily, no one would ever dream of downloading and printing off a Lime sticker to stick to their own scooter, would they ...?"

      I can buy a Ferrari badge and put it on my Vauxhall, but I think people might notice from the fact that it looks quite different.

  5. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Trials?

    I'm not sure how much these trials will prove. Surely a lot of the potential use will be privately owned ones that people use for a short-ish commute or run to the shops etc. The market for pick-up-and-go rental could be quite limited, and will only really apply in large towns & cities, for people who have perhaps driven in and then need to go a mile or two to other locations, as an alternative to a taxi or bus. The trial will give little evidence for overall demand and practicalities.

    And for those complaining that they can be left to litter the streets? Easy, if one's been abandoned on the pavement, chuck it over a fence or in the canal.

    1. My-Handle

      Re: Trials?

      I'm not sure I get where the "leave it wherever" mentality came from originally. If I rent literally anything else, I'm responsible for returning it to the renter in a reasonable condition. If the renting company allows their users to leave the scooters in the middle of any pavement, you start getting these issues coming up (like littering & public nuisance, damaged vehicles, having to round them up from all over the city each night).

      Surely it would make most sense to scatter a set of stands around a city (e.g. next to transit hubs, car parks, major shopping locations etc). Most people who want to use these things will likely arrive in a city via a transit hub etc and will likely be returning there at the end of the day.

      People who live and work in a city (whose house and workplace aren't located near a stand) would likely buy their own version for commuting, if they don't already have something comparable.

      1. BBRush

        Re: Trials?

        The thing is, that is their main value add over, say, a Boris Bike.

        You find one near where you are (after a bunch of them have been seeded at areas of high use), rent it and then un-rent it when you get to where you are going. If you have to leave it somewhere central, then that will defeat the purpose of it.

        Yes, they are a massive pain in the arse and people drive them like morons. Yes, people do not abide by the usage agreement, not by traffic rules either and yes, as a cyclist, I hate them with a passion. Here (Stockholm) they are also way more expensive than taking the subway or a bus. BUT... You can find them everywhere and take them most places you want to go.

        The problem, with most things, is people. They are the idiots that leave them everywhere and cause an issue. I do hope though, that the trial in this case will ensure that a hire includes liability insurance. If a helmet and a driving license is mandatory, it should also mean that enforcement of things is a lot easier: No helmet == ticket and points.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trials?

          "If a helmet and a driving license is mandatory,"

          Having a scooter on hand *when needed* is totally killed by either: You can't have either.

          No-one will have a backpack and helmet inside *in case* they want to scooter somewhere, that's an idea which is dead before starting.

          Major part of the population doesn't have a driving licence and those who have, mostly use a car anyway, so demanding one won't fly either.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Trials?

        Around here, the scooter companies' model was to pay "recoverers" for each scooter recovered from "wherever". They'd print off lists of the GPS locations and the recoverers would go out at night and return them all to their central locations.

        I don't see as many as there used to be around Boston. I think the model may have had a few cracks in it.

        Every now and then, I do see someone whizzing along on a scooter, electric skateboard or "uni-wheel", often without a helmet. I think about what would happen if one of those tiny wheels were to encounter a Boston-sized pothole, or if the driver were to encounter one of our famed Boston drivers, and shudder.

        The bloom appears to be off the scooter "rose", at least, in Boston. Rental bikes seem to be a thing, still, at least the dockable kind. The leave-anywhere ones seem to have vanished. Or maybe, just relocated:

        https://media.wired.com/photos/59559cb13ff99d6b3a1d129e/master/w_2560%2Cc_limit/Hangzhou_2017_01.jpg

      3. Ashentaine

        Re: Trials?

        >Surely it would make most sense to scatter a set of stands around a city (e.g. next to transit hubs, car parks, major shopping locations etc). Most people who want to use these things will likely arrive in a city via a transit hub etc and will likely be returning there at the end of the day.

        From what I understand with the rental bicycles that we have here, you'll get charged a return fee if the bike is left outside a designated return point for more than a few hours. I would reckon they'll make a tidy profit off people who don't read the service terms on the app that unlocks the things and presume they can just ditch it wherever because "I'm only using it this one time", or consider the fee to be an acceptable alternative to finding the nearest return point and walking the rest of the way, since it's still probably cheaper overall than taking a cab.

      4. Mike Richards

        Re: Trials?

        Most of the scooters are on the 'deckles' model where you pick them up from wherever you find them and leave them as close to your destination as possible. This is apparently more convenient for the people who want to zoom along pavements on a scooter than leaving them in a stand a few tens of metres from where they are going.

        Here in MK we've got two bike hire schemes - one red sponsored by Santander, and one green by Lime. The Santander system is docked and you don't find their bikes littering the pavement (those few bikes that haven't been thieved by the local scallywags that is); the Lime bikes get dumped everywhere and the company appears to be completely incapable of recovering them.

        So I expect we'll have their wretched scooters to deal with next.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Trials?

          "So I expect we'll have their wretched scooters to deal with next."

          Yes, and considering all the horror stories we are seeing posted here, from multiple countries, it does make one wonder just who the UK government are listening too when they talk about these sorts of schemes.

          Like Facebook and Uber before them, the ideas seem to be coming out of US university/students, where the idea, on campus, seems like a good idea and quite possibly might even work quite well, But they really don't scale up to the real world where laws, licensing and real people are involved. Universitys on private land full of students paying a lot of money to be there are not a reliable analogue of the real world.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Trials?

            "Universitys on private land full of students paying a lot of money to be there are not a reliable analogue of the real world."

            The other thing you find is the group developing the concept are all of a like mind. The last thing they want is some old cynical curmudgeon like me poking holes in their plans for a small slice of Utopia. As a former safety officer at an aerospace company, I had to always be looking for things that might go wrong and what to do to either prevent them from happening or to make sure everybody goes home with all of their limbs when something goes pear shaped. Another part of my job was avionics. The same sort of what-if analysis goes on there.

    2. LenG

      Re: Trials?

      I could use one of these for shopping, going to the doctor/dentist and local visiting of friends ... if I owned it. All of which would replace car usage. No chance of that with the rental model.

      1. jh27

        Re: Trials?

        I wonder does the legislation specify the duration of the rental period? What if you were to pay a weekly or monthly rental?

        I can see some benefits of the Lime type rental model. Not really much good for reducing car usage, but in inner city areas where perhaps the biggest disadvantage of a bicycle at present is probably security and availability of parking. There are definite advantages to being able to rent a vehicle that can be parked in a limited space and not have to worry about its security - especially if the rental company can geofence the vehicle and easily fit a load of them in a van to redistribute them.

        All the things you list above you could do with a cycle or a push scooter. However many people will discount these options without even trying them. The electric scooter is still quite novel, and many people who wouldn't ever consider a cycle or push scooter (and probably wouldn't buy their own electric scooter (without trying)) will happily rent an electric scooter and decide they like it.

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    Helmet

    I assume the intention is a cycling helmet as opposed to an ACU approved motorcycle lid.

    A couple of decades back, a couple of mates and I fitted a strimmer engine to an adult sized scooter to use as a paddock 'bike'.

    After a few weeks others had acquired similar and with the usual idiots racing each other in the paddock got them all banned.

    Some of those idiots seem to be in the cities on e scooters now and will spoil it for others.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Helmet

      More importantly it will kill any potential usage of the things...

      So they were "tried, but the public didn't want them", so we need to build more roads and car parks.

    2. not.known@this.address Silver badge

      Re: Helmet

      "I assume the intention is a cycling helmet as opposed to an ACU approved motorcycle lid."

      It's your head - you decide.

      Given the standard of some of the riders of these things that are already rumbling around despite their being illegal, I would recommend spiky body armour all over - for when one of them (or an inconsiderate cyclist) decides they have more right to that bit of land you' re standing/sitting/walking on than you do...

  7. Peter Galbavy

    In an open and transparent democracy you would set standards for new types of transport (that are considered in need of regulating) and then you would allow private and commercial interests to follow those standards.

    Instead, as we don't live in an open and transparent democracy but one where funny handshakes and the old boy network hold sway, we hand over the public roads to special interest groups to set their own agendas, standards and ultimately enforcement. Can't you just see [whoever has shaken hands on this] going to propose their "operatives" are allowed to stop "unlicensed" riders on public roads - obviously the police are far too busy, so just like the Post Office and the BBC being allowed to be judge, jury and executioner so will these chinless wonders.

  8. IGotOut Silver badge

    Forget Scooters.

    Why bother with these death traps. Wouldn't it make more sense to bring e-bike rules in line with most of Europe e.g. speed limits and twist and go operation.

    Oh and enforce existing laws such as bloody lights. No lights at night. Take the bloody bike off them and make them walk home.

    Also, make helmets compulsory.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Forget Scooters.

      And how exactly does a copper on foot catch a teenager on a mountain bike? Teenagers tend to have a good grasp of local geography, i.e alleyways and paths that police cars can't follow.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Forget Scooters.

        Yeah to hard. Just not even bother.

        How about all those in cities?

        Or the one's on the main roads?

        Or maybe just make them automatically liable for an accident at night. If not wearing a helmet and suffer a head injury, then no insurance pay out.

        This isn't an anti-cycling rant (hence my suggestion about making e-bikes legal). But making sure people take responsibility.

      2. Chris G Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Forget Scooters.

        Re. Catching a kid on a mountain bike.

        There is always the Net gun, most of them look like a torch (flashlight) and use a CO2 cartridge to launc a net.

        They're mostly used for animals but I would apply that description to some of the wayward scooterists and cyclists.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget Scooters.

        Tazer the little suckers. They might get a bad case of gravel rash (hopefully) when they fall off, but it is a damn sight better than what they would get if a car hits them and smears them along the road

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forget Scooters.

      Please tell me one thing that makes this a death trap? It's between a bicycle and a motorbike. So if either of those are allowed, no in fact both are, then how is an e-scooter more dangerous?

    3. jh27

      Re: Forget Scooters.

      > Why bother with these death traps. Wouldn't it make more sense to bring e-bike rules in line with most of Europe e.g. speed limits and twist and go operation.

      UK and EU e-bike legislation are already the same.

      > Oh and enforce existing laws such as bloody lights. No lights at night. Take the bloody bike off them and make them walk home.

      Most forces do occasional enforcement of cycle lights, typically in winter, although in my experience it's more of a problem in summer (people go out on their bikes and don't think about it being dark). Typically rather than fine, they'll give the option of producing proof that you've fitted lights (within a week) or pay a fine. But I like your idea.

      > Also, make helmets compulsory.

      That would be good idea, after every other safety measure has been implemented - including mandatory speed limiters on all motor vehicles and helmets for vehicle occupants (they suffer a higher rate of head injuries than cyclists) and pedestrians, and people walking up and down stairs.

      1. YARR

        Re: Forget Scooters.

        Kill two birds with one stone, put the lights on the helmets.

  9. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Electric scooters, when set on fire, make a pretty good barricade against the police during a protest - as demonstrated recently by some irate Parisians (who tend to be experts in such matters).

  10. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Why do you need a driving license to rent an electric scooter but any one can go to Halfords and by a peddle bike and ride down the road (or often the pavement near me even though the council spent money painting cycle lanes on the roads) without even having to have demonstrated they have basic road sense?

    Perhaps the e-scooters can accelerate faster than someone on a bike, but if a cyclist hits someone doing 10+ mph they can cause just as many injuries to pedestrians as a e-scooter rider, and that's not accounting for other accidents untrained cyclists they might cause by running lights, pulling out without looking etc causing other drivers to swerve to avoid them.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Do schools not have safety bike lessons anymore, I remember I had lessons at primary school?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        The Cycling Proficiency Test, which was well promoted and little short of compulsory, like school swimming lessons and water safety, are no longer pushed or funded as they once were. Hence the recent generations of kids drowning left, right and centre these days because they are poor or non-swimmers with zero risk awareness. Then there's the RNLI who provide paid and trained lifeguards to beaches, paid out of our taxes when we used to have volunteers, also trained and often competed in competitions to prove their abilities. Now you get "official" lifeguards who will make the effort to come over and shout at you if you have the temerity to swim in the sea outside their special flagged area.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          "Cycling Proficiency Test" - Yes that was it have an upvote!

          School swimming, I remember that although that was because our primary school had an outside freezing pool and I don't remember being taught anything (I must have been pratting about).

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        My bicycle safety lessons involved falling off and/or hitting things (and then falling off). After a period of time you start to realize that it can be painful. I wasn't always the quickest tortoise in the race. Anywho, safety lessons learned.

        Do you really want the government to form a ministry of bicycles with loads of civil servants, more uniformed filth and another court system to handle citations? I suggest parents do a bit of teaching on the subject of bicycle safety with some courses early in school for those is rather reckless parents.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Why do you need a driving license to rent an electric scooter but any one can go to Halfords and by a peddle bike and ride down the road (or often the pavement near me even though the council spent money painting cycle lanes on the roads) without even having to have demonstrated they have basic road sense?"

      Because it would require a change in the law that defines a "motor vehicle". E-bikes skirt the law because the electric motor is "assistive" and not the primary means of propulsion.

    3. jh27

      You need a licence to ride an e-scooter, it can be a provisional licence and you don't need to undertake any compulsory basic training. So all it proves is that the rider is over the age of 16 and able to submit a valid application form.

      It is necessary because it is a motor vehicle as defined by the road traffic act. They have only given the go ahead for trials of electric scooters, which is why it is only for rental scooters, which will be get fenced. This isn't the final legislation legalising electric scooters, there will be more to come, it is a process.

      Given that you need to be over 16 to ride an electrically assisted bike, it seems likely this restriction will remain for electric personal mobility vehicles.

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    WTF?

    Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living…

    Only according to Nathan Barley.

    These toys do not:

    • reduce car journeys
    • make a positive contribution to climate change
    • have a viable business model

    Oh, and helmets are pretty fucking useless for all the knee and hand injuries that people suffer with them.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living…

      ... helmets are pretty fucking useless for all the knee and hand injuries...

      Helmet requirements discourage use. Take a look at the Netherlands where helmets are not the norm.

      One of the reasons helmets are not mandatory for bicycles here is the number of additional car journeys that would cause. Another reason is that they encourage dangerous behaviour as people feel safer when wearing them.

      Yes motorcycle helmets and car seat belts do this as well but it was felt that it still worked out safer with them.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living…

        I think the main reason that the main reason cyclists have so few serious accidents in the Netherlands is that bikes are always taken into consideration when planning roads, thus minimising competing traffic streams. Add to this the fact that most Dutch people cycle and the liability is nearly always with the most powerful vehicle.

    2. crayon

      Re: Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living…

      "Only according to Nathan Barley."

      I don't know who that dude is, but you need to get out more. Electric scooters and bikes have been popular in China for at least over a decade. For the millions who can't afford a car it is a cheap and convenient method of transport. It also helps that in many Chinese cities they have bike lanes, usually wide enough that you can drive a car through. Some idiots even drive trucks onto the bike lanes, until the authorities put bollards on the ends, then the freaking idiots join the bike lane in the middle bypassing the bollards.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living…

        "For the millions who can't afford a car it is a cheap"

        It's cheap. That's all. That's why it's popular: They can't afford anything else and it is a step upwards from bicycle.

        Still less than a moped.

        Chinese towns have bike lanes because >70% of population can't afford anything more than a bike: You *have to have* bike lanes.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living…

      "These toys do not:

      reduce car journeys"

      I don't see it either. The big experiment that's being done during the pandemic is how people can work effectively from home for many office jobs. There can be some advantage to having a team in one location occastionally, but it doesn't have to be in a downtown multi-storey office block. If you are in one of those buildings, it's often faster and easier to get HR on the phone or send a message than to badge out, go up three floors, badge in and then wait for somebody to see you (20 minutes after your appointment time). The only reason to do that is to get away from your desk and get some exercise. It would make little difference is the HR office was 100 miles away and the HR staff lived in the immediate are of that facility.

      The idea is for people to live close to where they work instead of trying to rapidly build more and more transportation infrastructure so people can live further and further away. I take it as an ingrained concept of the corporate mind that an entire company has to be situated in one giant monolithic tower to be successful when the evidence is that people are connecting electronically across the room and increasing the distance makes not difference. Obviously, this doesn't make sense for a factory or a distribution warehouse but both of those still have offices full of people that could be anywhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living…

        "The idea is for people to live close to where they work instead of trying to rapidly build more and more transportation infrastructure so people can live further and further away."

        You can't do that. See what is the land value in any city centrum and you realize no ordinary people can afford to live in such a place.

        On the other hand companies don't want to go outside city centrum, so you will have a lot of commuting. Or people working from home.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why?

    "Users will be permitted to ride electric scooters on roads, tracks and public cycle lanes, but will be required to hold a full or provisional driver's licence and wear a helmet. It will remain illegal for individuals to drive privately owned scooters on public highways."

    But why? I've been trying to figure this out. I needed transport (especially during this lockdown) without a car, and the only thing I could fit in my available space at the time, was an electric folding scooter. Professionally made, with lights, with speed limits, with (as far as you can make on a standing scooter) "push assist" with a helmet, and with a (car licence as it's not classed as a motorcycle, but closer to an e-bike) licence and being as safe and courteous as possible to everyone.

    It got me to where I needed to get and back to the car.

    It's as slow as a bicycle. It's as balanced as anything else I've ridden. If I needed a MOT and bike licence I'd happily get one, but I would ask "why not *also* ask bicycles for this too?" as what actual difference does electric motors make to feet? What safety difference does it make if its me peddling vs my mate peddling and me resting, vs electric vs petrol? I mean, if we were talking about wind, then that would be dangerous!

    But that's the thing what is magic about foot pedals!?!?! And what would it take to register it as a motorbike? I mean, would they not just laugh at me if I did the required mods and turned up with a helmet to ask for a certificate and VIN number? (Don't tempt me, I'm pedantic like that, and I will do it!!! XD ).

    If it's dangerous, then get other motorised vehicles off the road, or tell me how it needs to be modified to be safe. If it's safe, then stop making it illegal! (I in no was condone using it on pavements though, but neither should bicycles be on pavements!)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Helmet

    Read elsewhere that helmets would be encouraged but optional. Won't stop idiots on privately-owned leccy scooters trying to intimidate pedestrians. I speak from experience. There apparently also exists petrol-driven scooters (gas-driven, to our USA friends!) with tiny engines and fuel tank on the rear wheel, which I didn't know were around until a passenger put one in the luggage compartment of my taxi. Don't think it was a home-made device. The fuel smell stank the car out, but that's another story. Had I realised there was inflammable fuel initially, the thing wouldn't have been allowed on board. Will these non-electric beasts be allowed to run rampant?

    1. jh27

      Re: Helmet

      Petrol driven standing scooters (or more often with a small seat) have been around for a very long time in jurisdictions where they are permitted. Go-ped scooters were launched in 1985 and can be seen in quite a few movies from that time - they've never been legal to use in public in the UK.

  14. TheSkunkyMonk

    Planned obsolescence, Software as a service and now our toys are going into a rental program! How can it be ok for a private company to run these on the roads but a private citizen can't purchase one and maintain it themselves? Not that I think its a good idea, maybe in a different world but in the current one this will just cause havoc.

  15. SloppyJesse

    Useful mode of transport to get to the station

    Own scooters, electric and conventional, seem popular with my colleagues in the Paris office. Walking around their offices you see plenty folded up under desks. Apparently they're very convenient for short commute along the well maintained, wide cycle/footpaths or getting to/from the metro. Being able to fold them and carry into the office is an advantage over bikes.

    Like others I don't see any reasonable reason a hire scooter is legal and a personal one isn't. It's academic for my town of Derby anyway - they canned the ebike scheme after half were nicked and others had their controls smashed so I doubt there will be a clamour from scooter operators to set up here.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where's the soldering iron? I spy some hackery on the horizon with one of those scooters ..!

  17. Jim84

    Lifestyle change

    These e scooters, like bikes, are a lifestyle change as you are exposed to any inclement weather. But not everyone is fit enough for a bike, so they could be a welcome addition.

    Still the UK government could do some good by actually giving the mayor of London the power to override certain councils (Chelsea and Kensington) that continually block the building of any bike lanes. Forget the rows about e scooters, there is no reason that London could not be like Amsterdam other than local politics.

    If they built more bike racks near stations, as well as bike lanes, that would reduce traffic.

    The issue of people leaving scooters everywhere is that there is no penalty for it at the moment, I suspect because a few companies are burning through VC cash giving consumers subsidies in order to try and achieve "scale" and market dominance like Uber has supposedly done (we are yet to see if this lasts). Maybe a small fine on leaving these things lying around could fairly quickly sort this behaviour out (rather than outright bans, surely cheered on by black cab taxi drivers and other vested interests).

    Personally I'm in favour of bikes and more bike lanes for trips of under 1km, but Personal Rapid Transit pods hanging off thin rails in the air to get people out of cars for medium to long trips around the city (buses and trains take to long due to continually stopping, it shouldn't take me ~1 hour to get from Putney to Covent garden). Slow transit due to congestion in cars or continual stops on buses and trains limits the economic benefits of living close to others in a city.

    1. jh27

      Re: Lifestyle change

      > These e scooters, like bikes, are a lifestyle change as you are exposed to any inclement weather. But not everyone is fit enough for a bike, so they could be a welcome addition.

      > ...

      > Personally I'm in favour of bikes and more bike lanes for trips of under 1km.

      1km on a bike seems pretty pointless, if I had to do it regularly I'd probably walk it or use a push scooter. My youngest daughter's school is 2km from home - she scoots in the morning and I follow on my bike - but mainly because I have to get back home in time to start work at 9 (the trip home takes a little under 4 minutes, which is about how long it would take me to walk from school to the nearest place I can park the car). In the afternoon, I take my lunch break late, and I walk (or jog if I'm late) and then walk/jog next to her whilst she scoots. Not everyone is as fit as I am, but any fitness I have is only due to replacing sedentary travel with active travel - I've never been a member of a gym or played sports, and it is only during lockdown that I've cycled for anything other than utility and started running occasionally.

      Electric scooters provide none of the health benefits of active travel. e-bikes at least require some effort from their rider and offer advantages (in speed and range) if the rider puts in more effort. However, they are world apart from single occupancy car commutes - at least they aren't dragging around a spare armchair, a sofa and a cupboard all wrapped in a ton and a half of steel and glass, whilst simultaneously poisoning the air we breath with exhaust fumes and brake and tyre dust.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Lifestyle change

      I like the idea of PRT for city centers. I prefer the UltraPRT design with the pods being on dedicated raised roadways rather than suspended from overhead rails. If one can get from the airport or train station to convenient stops downtown quickly and with baggage, that's going to make it popular. It's also nice to do that without being jammed in with loads of the unwashed. The "Last Mile" problem still hasn't been solved.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lifestyle change

      "The issue of people leaving scooters everywhere is that there is no penalty for it at the moment"

      No. That's the whole idea of a rented scooter. Having to drive somewhere to leave it means you aren't even near where you were going to and you need to rent a cab or something anyway: It would be literally worse service than a cab.

      "Slow transit due to congestion in cars"

      That's mostly on purpose. "The slower the traffic is, the safer it is". Also you can't have congestion charges without congestion.

  18. dave 81

    Rental sucks.

    Sorry, but the rental idea sucks for anyone but tourists. If they actually wanted to reduce traffic, then privately owned would be the way to go. I doubt the rental company is going to like me keeping a bike at my house, where its convenient to actually use, and I am certainly not going to pay rent on something I could buy, and buy a much better model as well. I suspect lobbying and kickbacks for this idiotic decision.

    1. gskr

      Re: Rental sucks.

      Yeah I agree - we hired a couple in Adelaide last year, quite fun as a tourist - (but the geofence area was pretty small, and took ages to get the app setup)

      But rental ones are NOT going to be useful for commuters/shoppers in general - they'll only be in the city centres (so wont help with the first bit of the supposed last-mile leg from house to tram/train station), and the end bit/city centre bit is usually not a problem for commuters/shoppers on foot.

      Allowing privately owned ones on the other hand (where you can go directly from your house to the train station) might well encourage people to switch from cars to public transport - and I think that's what's needed if you're serious about reducing car use.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Rental sucks.

        "But rental ones are NOT going to be useful for commuters/shoppers in general - they'll only be in the city centres (so wont help with the first bit of the supposed last-mile leg from house to tram/train station), and the end bit/city centre bit is usually not a problem for commuters/shoppers on foot."

        Yes, arriving in the city centre is often not a problem for many people. Public transport is invariably designed around getting people to and around the city centre. The bit that is missing is the part where many people need to move around the outskirts, get to the local shops, local doctors/dentists etc, or even live on one edge of the city and work on a business/industrial park somewhere else on the edge of the city. Those sorts of trips often require a trip to the city centre, change bus/train, then out of city again, vastly increasing the numbers travelling into the city and so causing the planners to think the route is more popular than it is. Few traffic surveys do any more than measure people/vehicle going from A to B. They rarely check if B is the ultimate destination.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Rental sucks.

      I might use one when I go (as I often do) into london by train. Maybe that makes me a tourist.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Rental sucks.

      "Sorry, but the rental idea sucks for anyone but tourists. If they actually wanted to reduce traffic, then privately owned would be the way to go."

      Absolutely! It could even be cost free to the Government. If suppliers want to sell "road legal" scooters, then they pay to have them approved by the DfT, just like other vehicle manufactures have to do. Maybe stamp serial numbers onto various parts of the chassis too. Yeah, that can be abused by some people, but then they already do that with cars etc now.

      1. jh27

        Re: Rental sucks.

        Cycles and assisted cycles don't need to be approved by the DfT, merely built to confirm to the standards. I doubt that electric scooters will be any different, once they are fully legalised.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Rental sucks.

      Privately owned and secure lockers to place the scooters at or near train/tube stations could be a big help. Also, there would need to be a storage area with charging at workplaces. The outlets can cycle through in groups so not every scooter is being charged at the same time.

      Getting exercise is fine, but if it's a warm day and you have to wear "business attire" at work, a brisk cycle trip isn't a good thing unless there is a locker room with showers. Most people would rather shower at home and have some way of arriving at work non-mussed.

  19. Fr. Ted Crilly
    Boffin

    ;-)

    Handy source of batteries...

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: ;-)

      "Handy source of batteries..."

      There are kits to refit some brands of scooters with unlocked electronics from places like Ali Express. The original mainboard becomes a source of parts such as the GPS module, BT board, etc. A new paint job and you have a scooter. I expect that batteries are a target for the less sophisticated thieves.

  20. Fonant
    WTF?

    Why?

    Why electric scooters? They're rubbish on rough surfaces like, er, UK roads.

    Why not invest in cycleways for use by people riding bicycles and electric bicycles?

  21. USER100

    Greener option than car

    From a purely physics POV, these scooters do make sense. If you drive to work you're transporting ~80 kg of you and ~1500 kg of metal at the same time. If the weight of the transport can be reduced to ~30 kg, that's a massive reduction in energy use. (Better still, walk or cycle).

    (Slightly biased because I hate cars (used to love them), especially SUVs and child-scaring 'shouty cars' with stupid exhausts, dump valves etc.)

    (And diesels).

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Greener option than car

      Yes, but places such as London don't always have "perfect" weather for scootering, walking or cycling. A system such as PRT can go a long way to reducing moving mass while still providing protection from the elements. The cars can be much lighter weight since they are far less likely to crash or be crashed into. Their onboard energy storage can be much small as they recharge at each stop. A battery tech such as Lithium Titinate, that can be recharged very fast (with lower energy density) might be a good match. Less power plant weight is another advantage.

      It would be going in reverse to take a long range passenger car and try to develop a self driving system in it. The complexity is a couple of orders of magnitude greater than what it takes to run a PRT network.

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Are they talking about those silly stand-on things? With no seats? Who wants to stand up all the way to your destination? You may as well get on a crowded bus. Or walk!

  23. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Ebikes are much safer than escooters, they should have relaxed the rules on UK ebikes instead! 250W and pedelec only is totally insufficient.

  24. MachDiamond Silver badge

    I'll make you some stickers

    How hard would it be to make some vinyl stickers to slap on your own scooter so it looks like one of the approved rentals? I won't be able to retire through selling them, but it should be enough for a few pints a week.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The aim of the tests is to gauge whether they're an effective way of reducing car traffic while determining their impact on overall road safety."

    Here in North we've had those for 2 years. Thoroughly useless in winter, absolutely ridiculously priced in summer and overall junk on streets when not in use. Which means >90% of the time.

    Also payment methods are shady as f**k: "app" on the phone which charges money from your bank account, apparantly as much as it wants.

    No way in hell I'd use anything like that for anything.

    Also 0 change in car traffic: Those are replacing bicycle or walking, not a car. In some cases a bus, but not a car.

    Well, obviously: No roof, no sitting place, expensive to use and a privacy/security nightmare.

    Also unsafe as hell: No brakes, zero stability and rolling on pair of 2" wheels. At 15mph.

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