Written evidence submitted by the Automobile Association
The AA represents some 12 million members and customers and is pleased that the Committee is investigating this important issue. By easing congestion, E-scooters could contribute to improved air quality in towns and cities across the country but could also pose some safety issues in relation to vulnerable and other road users. We run the biggest dedicated motoring panel in Europe and poll our members via this AA Populus Panel monthly. Our response is based on our members’ views.
Q. Whether the legislation for e-scooters is up to date and appropriate;
E-scooter use has increased and is becoming more visible in towns and cities across Great Britain. In our May 2020 survey of 18,129 people*, almost three fifths (58%) of respondents had seen e-scooters being used on pavements and footpaths, compared to half (51%) on roads and more than two fifths (46%) on cycle paths.
Respondents felt that the law should be changed with almost two thirds (63%) saying e-scooters should be allowed to use dedicated cycle paths and more than half (56%) said they should be allowed to use roads which can be used by cyclists. Respondents were clear that e-scooters should be kept separate from pedestrians as only two fifths (39%) said they should be allowed to use shared foot and cycle paths and just 16% said they should be legal to ride on the pavement.
In order to obtain as many benefits as possible, the AA believes that the legislation for e-scooters should be updated to legalise their use and to allow their acceptance on roads which cyclists can use.
As part of the policy programme in relation to the covid-19 crisis, the Department for Transport has indicated it will legislate these changes for rental schemes and is consulting on this basis.
Q. To what extent e-scooters have positive benefits, for instance relating to congestion and promoting more sustainable forms of transport;
E-scooters can have a positive benefit for promoting sustainable transport and ease congestion. Half of people (49%) believe that legalising their use could reduce car traffic within towns and cities.
However, a fifth (19%) said they would seriously consider buying a e-scooter as an alternative to walking or cycling should they be legalised, with the highest support amongst 18-24 year olds (32%). If e-scooters are to succeed then they need to play a role in convincing drivers to give up their car for some journeys and not just replace one form of active transport for a greener, motorised alternative.
We also believe that legalising the use of e-scooters could help improve air quality when it comes to last-mile delivery solutions in urban and built-up areas. As the nation targets zero tailpipe emissions by 2050, new solutions will be needed to utilised in order to reach this target. While it won’t necessarily be the best solution, it will have a positive impact and be useful in some scenarios.
Q. Where in the urban environment e-scooters could be used (e.g. road, pavement, cycle lanes), and how this could impact on other road users and pedestrians, including people who have visual impairments or use mobility aids;
As stated above, we believe that e-scooters should be used on roads where cyclists can use. When introducing any new form of road user, safety must be paramount, and this is reflected in the views of our members.
In our May 2020 survey, respondents were clear that e-scooters could pose risks to other road users. Nine out of 10 (90%) said that the safety of pedestrians would be a concern should e-scooters be permitted on pavements. Similarly, three quarters (75%), said that the safety of other road users (i.e. drivers and cyclists) would be a concern should e-scooters be legalised.
We believe that riders should be at least 16 years old and 86% of our members agree with that proposal. Eight out of 10 (82%) say that e-scooter riders should have some form of training before they can use them. While not feasible in a short-term hire perspective, this may be more beneficial for riders using e-scooters in a delivery perspective, or as an optional course for riders who purchase and ride their own e-scooter.
Q. Whether there should be advice or compulsory requirements to use specific safety equipment when using an e-scooter;
We believe that while the wearing of a helmet and clothing with increased visibility could be beneficial, this should not be mandated as per the legislation with cyclists.
Similarly, we believe that e-scooter users should not be mandated to purchase some form of insurance, however they should be encouraged to hold some form of personal liability insurance. There are also unanswered questions in relation to the implementation of the EU directive regarding Vnuk, which might mean the Government has to expand the types of vehicles required to have compulsory insurance.
Q. Whether there should be safety and environmental regulation for the build of e-scooters, and what this might entail;
Three quarters (75%) of respondents say that e-scooters should have a maximum speed of 15 mph and we support this limit. On safety grounds, we also believe that there should be regulation regarding; e-scooter weight limits, braking, lighting and wheel size. We are disappointed that this has not been included within the DfT e-scooter consultation.
Q. The experience of other countries where e-scooters are legal on the roads
* Populus received 18,129 responses from AA members to its online poll between 12th – 19th May 2020. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.