Written by David Withers, Personal Injury Partner& Kelly Lingard, Personal Injury Solicitor

In London, electric scooter trials will begin next month. The year-long rental scheme starts on 7th June 2021. The trial is hoped to lead to e-scooters being used more frequently as a greener alternative to cars. However, alarmingly, a study by Transport for London, based on US data, has recently concluded that riders of e-scooters needed hospital treatment after accidents, on average, once every 3.1 years. Many suffered head or neck injuries. By contrast, the number of cyclists seriously injured or killed in London was 2.7 per one million journeys. According to the Metropolitan Police, more than 200 e-scooter injuries and 39 pedestrian injuries as a result of contact with an e-scooter have been reported in the past 2 years.

The scooters are operated by Dott, Lime and Tier. They will be trialled in six boroughs in North London. The scooters are limited to 12.5 miles per hour. This is 3mph below the speed limit set by the national guidelines for e-scooter trials national guidelines. As well as having a lower speed limit than trials in other parts of the country, scooters will require lights to be permanently on for increased visibility. The riders must take an online safety course. They must only be ridden on the road and riders will need to have a valid driving license.

The e-scooters are currently subject to compulsory insurance. This will probably be arranged by the rental company to make hiring an e-scooter as quick and easy as possible.

David Withers, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell specialising in serious injury cases said:

“There are two stark sides when it comes to whether e-scooters should be permitted on roads. Some are concerned that we are behind the pace from other European countries, whereas others have expressed concerns about the safety.

We agree that a controlled pilot is a sensible and cautious way to explore whether e-scooters could be used across the UK in the future; however, we are concerned about the study based upon the use of e-scooters in the USA.  We think that strict policing of e-scooters will be important to avoid, for example, riders going onto the pavement or on other off-road places where members of the public are likely to be at risk.

At Irwin Mitchell, we see on a daily basis the devastating effects of serious injury. Fortunately, compulsory insurance will cover e-scooters being ridden on a road or other public place. The e-scooters will also require off road insurance for the time being. However, the UK Government has indicated an intention to introduce legislation which would mean that compulsory insurance cover would only be required on a road or other public place in the future. This would mean that, in the future, accidents on private land would lead to no remedy, in all likelihood, for the injured person when another was at fault. This will lead to more expense for the tax payer as a result of additional NHS and Local Authority provision being required. 

Kelly Lingard, a Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell specialising in serious injury cases said:

It is absolutely vital that safety is at the forefront of any piloting of e-scooters, particularly on the very busy streets of London. We welcome the requirement for an online safety course and the potential for the streets of London to become less congested. We also welcome the additional requirements included within the TfL trial which have not been seen in all trials across the country but remain concerned about the study by TfL on the increased risk of injury when using e-scooters in comparison with statistics on injuries involving cyclists.

Helen Sharp, TfL's e-scooter trial lead, said: 

We're doing all we can to support London's safe and sustainable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and it's clear that e-scooters could act as an innovative, greener alternative to car trips.

Safety remains our number one priority and we will work closely with the e-scooter operators, London Councils and the boroughs to ensure rigorous standards are consistently met.

We will also continue to work closely with all of our stakeholders, including TfL's Independent Disability Advisory Group, to ensure that the trial meets the needs of everybody living in, working in and visiting the trial areas.

'This new trial will provide the data and insights we need to determine the longer-term role e-scooters could play in our strategy for a greener and healthier future for London.'

You can find out more about the trial here

If you or a loved one have had a traffic accident as a result of using a scooter find out ways that our team can help you here.