In 2020, The UK Government introduced legislation trialling the use of e-scooters, through local authorities, for a period of 12 months via approved rental companies. The trial has been extended to the end of May 2024.
There is an important distinction between e-scooters and e-bikes.
The Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations and General Directions 2020 (SI 2020/663) provides the current legal framework for the use and regulation of e-scooters.
E-scooters are defined under these regulations as:
“(a) is fitted with an electric motor with a maximum continuous power rating not exceeding 500 watts;
(b) is not fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling the vehicle;
(c)has two wheels, one front and one rear, aligned along the direction of travel;
(d)is designed to carry no more than one person;
(e)has a maximum weight, excluding the driver, not exceeding 55 kgs;
(f)has a maximum design speed not exceeding 15.5 miles per hour;
(g)has a means of directional control through the use of handlebars which are mechanically linked to the steered wheel;
(h)has a means of controlling the speed through hand controls; and
(i)has a power control that defaults to the ‘off’ position”
E-scooters fall within the definition of a motor vehicle and more specifically are labelled “powered transport” under the Road Traffic Act 1988. Owners and riders are expected to comply with the same laws and requirements that apply to motor vehicles, including insurance and licensing, but with some exclusions and amendments to various other regulations and laws.
E-scooters that are privately owned are not currently legally permitted on public roads and are confined to use on private land with the permission of the land owner.
There are currently no trials in Scotland therefore if you encounter an e-scooter in a public place, it is being ridden illegally.
E-bikes also known as EAPCs (electrically assisted pedal cycles) are classified differently and are not treated as motor vehicles when used on roads in the UK. Rules on EPACs are set out in The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations 1983.
The criteria for an EAPC is:
- cycle must be fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling it.
- maximum continuous rated power of the electric motor must not exceed 250 Watts.
- electrical assistance must cut-off when the vehicle reaches 15.5 mph
An EAPC which complies with the above is not considered to be a motor vehicle within the meaning of the ‘Road traffic regulation act 1984’ and the ‘Road traffic act 1988’. As a result, it is not required to be registered or subject to vehicle excise duty (road tax), and does not have to be insured as a motor vehicle. However, EAPCs must not be ridden by anyone under the age of 14 years.
It is interesting to note that some electric cycles have a switch offering a temporary increase in top speed that is often advertised as an “off road” facility. When the switch is pressed the vehicle can be propelled by the motor at a speed greater than 15.5 mph. According to the government, vehicles with this feature fitted do not comply with the GB EAPC regulations.
As to where e-bikes can be ridden, it is important to note that they should not be used on the pavement, as to do so would be in breach of section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, thus constituting an offence. In addition, Rule 64 of the Highway Code states that you MUST NOT cycle on a pavement. This is also true for e-scooters.
What if I am involved in an accident with an e-scooter?
If you are involved in an accident with an e-scooter in Scotland it is likely that the rider is riding illegally and without insurance. You may be able to pursue a claim against the rider directly or direct a claim towards the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB), who compensate victims of uninsured drivers. In either case, you would be required to prove that the rider of the e-scooter is negligent, it is not enough that the e-scooter was simply being ridden illegally. The MIB may deal with the case under either the uninsured or untraced drivers agreement, depending on whether the rider of the scooter can be identified. It is worth noting that claims for property damage under the untraced agreement are only allowed where the claimant has also suffered ‘significant personal injury’ which is defined by the MIB as “death, 2 nights hospital inpatient treatment or 3 sessions of hospital outpatient treatment”.
If you have been involved in an accident whilst illegally riding an e-scooter, your claim is not automatically disallowed. The legal principal concerned is “Ex turpi causa non oritur actio” which translated means “from a dishonorable cause an action does not arise”. Whilst that principal holds true, there is an argument that although riding illegally, the rider should be no less protected in his right to obtain compensation than an uninsured cyclist. The issue to be considered is whether the illegality is connected with the alleged negligence. In cases such as Clark v Farley & MIB  and Kyriancou v Finch  this issue was considered and an award of compensation allowed albeit with a discount for contributory negligence.
What if I am involved in an accident with an e-bike?
If you are involved in an accident with an e-bike, this would generally be dealt with the same way as if you had an accident with a cyclist on a regular pedal bike. There is likely no insurer in place and so you would require to pursue a claim against the cyclist directly.
It is worth noting that, if the e-bike falls out with the strict category for EAPCs, it would probably be considered a “powered transporter” which would fall within the definition of “motor vehicle”. This definition is set out by the Road Traffic Act 1988 as “any mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads”. In those circumstances the e-bike would be subject to same laws and regulations that apply to all motor vehicles. It could therefore be argued that the MIB may be liable to provide compensation.
If the rider of the e-bike is acting in the course of employment, a delivery driver for example, it may be possible to pursue a claim directly against their employer, who would be vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of their employee. This very much depends on the relationship between the employer and the employee however.
If you have been involved in an accident whilst riding an e-bike you may be entitled to make a claim against the negligent party, if the accident was not your fault. If you have been involved in an accident with a motor vehicle a claim could be progressed against the insurer or the MIB (in cases of no insurance). If you have been involved in an accident with a pedestrian or another bike, making a claim may be more difficult as you would require to pursue the pedestrian or cyclist directly. Any award of compensation would require to be met by the negligent party out of their own pocket, if negligence can be established.
In all circumstances, it is a requirement to prove that the negligence caused the accident and that the damage or injury caused was as a direct result of the alleged negligence.
If you are involved in an accident with an e-scooter or e-bike it is likely that a degree of investigation will be required to establish the correct course of action. We would recommend reporting the matter to the police. It is important to obtain as much information as possible in terms of names and addresses of those involved and any witnesses. Obtaining photographs of the offending vehicle, damage caused and road layouts is also a good idea.
If you have been involved in an accident through no fault of your own, our expert lawyers are here to help. Contact us today to discuss your case.