In parallel with the launch of public, regulated trials of e-scooters across England, private, and currently illegal, e-scooter use on our roads and in other public spaces has increased. The unsafe nature of some private e-scooters, and irresponsible use by some, is leading to serious casualties and risks harming efforts by rental operators and local authorities seeking to provide a safe, low-carbon mobility option.
While the government-approved e-scooter rental trials are intended to assess safety, there is little or no current measure of the impact of the safety of private e-scooter on riders and other road users. PACTS was awarded a grant by the Road Safety Trust to collect data relating to incidents involving these micro-mobility devices and to form recommendations for their construction and use. Working with partners from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and fields of expertise PACTS has:
- gathered data of casualties involving e-scooters (riders and other road users) collected from the media, police forces and insurance firms;
- published a report summarising our findings and recommendations for regulation of private e-scooters – construction and use; and
- hosted a webinar on Thursday 24th March with eleven panellists and over 100 delegates.
Through collaboration with others PACTS have taken a robust, balanced and objective approach to this new mode of transport. PACTS recommends that the DfT
- takes immediate action to address dangerous and illegal private e-scooter use;
- undertakes a thorough public consultation before making any decision on the legalisation of e-scooters;
- commissions further research; and,
- if the Government decides to legalise use of private e-scooters, it should adopt regulations for their construction and use as follows:
- Maximum possible speed of 12.5mph (20km/h)
- Maximum continuous rated motor power of 250 W
- Anti-tampering mechanisms should be included in the construction. Tampering should be prohibited by law
- Minimum front wheel size of 12 inches (30.5cm) and minimum rear wheel size of 10 inches (25.5cm)
- Two independently controlled brakes, one acting on the front wheel and one acting on the rear wheel
- Lighting to be mandatory at all times
- Maximum unladen weight of 20kg
- An audible warning device to be mandatory
- Helmet wearing to be mandatory
- Riding on the footway (pavement) or footpath to be prohibited
- Rider age limit of at least 16 years
- Carrying of a passenger to be prohibited
- Drink driving, dangerous or careless riding, and handheld mobile phone use to be prohibited
- In-person rider training and third-party insurance are recommended
PACTS report presents the findings into the safety of private e-scooters. Evidence from casualty data collected in Europe and the UK informs an understanding of the extent and nature of injuries which casualties are suffering – head injuries are common and most riders fall from their e-scooter rather than being hit by another vehicle. These findings are supported by academic studies and crash testing which show how instabilities caused by an e-scooter’s design pose a risk to riders. We have also considered the risks posed to pedestrians and explain how e-scooters are not ‘just like bikes’.
Download the report here: PACTS The safety of private e-scooters in the UK – Final Report
PACTS has collected records of over 900 people killed or injured in collisions involving an e-scooter in the year 2021 in the UK (mainly England). The data were predominantly provided by the police and supplemented by media and social media reports and insurance records. We know it is incomplete but it provides a useful supplement to the official data. A copy of the PACTS data is freely available here.
Of the casualties, nearly 40% were seriously injured and twelve people died. Although it was usually the rider who was injured [69%], over a quarter [27%] of the casualties were other road users, mostly pedestrians and some pedal cyclists. Nearly a quarter [23%] of the riders were hurt in single vehicle collisions, ie they were not hit by nor did not collide with another road user or moving vehicle. Over 40% of those who suffered serious injuries had head injuries and 25% suffered fractures. 50% of the casualties were under the age of 25 and 72% male (77% of riders are male). Despite being illegal to use on public roads, around 70% of the e-scooters involved in these casualty collisions were private e-scooters, 15% were rental and 15% unknown. As the number of private e-scooters greatly exceeds the number of private ones, it is hard to draw conclusions about relative casualty rates. 12 people who died in 2021 were using private e-scooters, 1 was using a hire e-scooter.
Since 2019, PACTS is aware of a total of twenty-five deaths involving e-scooters, one in 2019, three in 2020, thirteen in 2021 and eight in 2022 (to early August). A register is available here (latest edition 8 August 2022).
Representatives from the NHS, insurance industry, police, road safety community, e-scooter operators and active travel sector joined PACTS in a webinar on 24th March 2022. Following a presentation summarising the findings of PACTS report the experts spoke in three panel sessions. Over 100 delegates contributed to the discussions covering a broad range of topics.
Panel 1 – Types and severity of injuries – Recording
- Edd Carlton, North Bristol Trust and TERN
- Tom Roberts, RCEM Doctoral Fellow
- David Bodansky, Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto, Canada
- Luke Griggs, Headway
Panel 2 – e-scooter design and user behaviour – Recording
- Fred Jones, TIER
- Phillip Darnton, Chair of the Bicycle Association
- Steve Wilson, Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)
Panel 3 – the future for e-scooters, where now? – Recording
- Dudley Curtis, European Transport Safety Council (ETSC)
- Kathryn Hinchey, Weightmans
- Graeme Sheriff, University of Salford
- Sarah Gayton, National Federation of the Blind of the UK
A summary of some Questions and Answers
Interim report – ‘The safety of private e-scooters’ Interim report from PACTS
Letter to the Minister about the interim report – The safety of private e-scooters – PACTS letter to Trudy Harrison MP
Letter from the Minister following publication of the interim report – The safety of private e-scooters – letter from Trudy Harrison MP
Letter to the Minister about e-scooters still being illegal – PACTS calls on minister to remind retailers and public – using a private e-scooter is illegal in UK
Letter from the Minister to PACTS regarding illegal e-scooter sales and use – Minister responses to PACTS about e-scooter legislation in regards to sales
Letter to the Minister with PACTS recommendations – Recommendations for the construction and use of private e-scooters
Letter from the Minister to PACTS in response to recommendations – Minister welcomes PACTS contribution to the evidence on e-scooter use