17 July 2019

It’s time for the UK to lift the outdated ban on electric scooters


It was a recent trip to Prague that really brought home the benefits of electric scooters. It’s a beautiful city, but one whose culinary offering seems to consist entirely of meat, bread and potatoes – the sort of fare that makes walking a chore, especially in the middle of a heatwave. My friends and I were very grateful for a different means of conveyance in the form of our e-scooters.

Sadly, this dynamic bit of transport technology is banned here in the UK and the authorities will crack down on them. This is simply a bad policy and it needs to change.

The first reason why the government should lift the ban on e-scooters is safety. The tragic death of a young woman yesterday highlights the fact, despite being illegal, people will still use e-scooters, with dangerous consequences.

When a risky activity is outlawed, but demand for it remains high, it increases risks for its participants. Just look at the war on drugs. The fact that cannabis use is prohibited does not stop people from taking it. What is more, as it is illegal instead of regulated, it increases the risks for users.

If we lift the ban on e-scooters then we can help keep riders, other road users, and pedestrians safer. Let’s have clear and well publicised regulations about who can use e-scooters and where. We can have age restrictions and speed limits with requirements for riders to wear helmets and to stick to the roads, with heavy penalties for breaking the law.

There will, of course, still be risks. However, no form of transport is completely safe – we don’t ban cars or bicycles, but we do try to provide as safe an environment as possible for people to use them.

There is also the risk of the UK being left behind. Electric scooters, or trottinettes, as the French call them, are ubiquitous in many cities around Europe. Not only does this create jobs for workers in the e-scooter industry in these countries, it allows these businesses to innovate. Given that e-scooters are legal in these countries means that businesses can experiment with designs, leading to not just better and safer e-scooters, but also other modes of transport.

Lifting the ban on e-scooters will allow British companies to meet consumer demand and invest in research and development into new and innovative ways to travel. The UK has world class universities and lots of ambitious and dynamic entrepreneurs. This country has the potential to become a world leader in developing the transport technology of the future. Lifting the ban is an important first step.

The ban is not only harming us now, it also means that the UK is missing out on investment both now and in the future. Many e-scooter businesses have received significant backing from venture capital firms tempted by a market that is predicted to be worth $42 billion by 2030.

Lifting the ban will also make commuting easier and more pleasant. If we allow people to travel to work by e-scooter will take more cars off the road, reducing congestion, speeding up journey times and cutting pollution. This is important as a 2017 study revealed the negative impact of long commutes. The study found that long commutes lower productivity and significantly increase the risk of suffering from depression, stress, and obesity. Also, surely travelling in the fresh air on an e-scooter beats being crammed into an overcrowded tube or train (or being late for work as your bus has decided to not show up on time).

Last but not least, e-scooters are fun.I had a great time exploring Prague with my friends on e-scooters. It would be just as fun to spend a sunny afternoon doing the same thing in London. There is the potential for businesses to capitalise on this by offering tours of cities, giving tourists the opportunities to see London, Cambridge, Oxford, or Edinburgh in a fun and interesting way.

It’s time for the UK to lift the outdated ban on electric scooters. It will increase safety, bring investment to the country, lead to innovations in transport, boost productivity, save the planet, and make us all healthier and happier.

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Ben Ramanauskas is a Policy Analyst for the Taxpayers' Alliance.