E-scooters take off in COVID-hit London despite legal obstacles

December 17, 2020

By Ben Makori

LONDON (Reuters) – Thousands of London commuters have ditched the city’s underground trains and buses during the COVID-19 pandemic for a more personal form of electric transportation: an e-scooter.

Costing from 300 pounds ($400) and with a typical top speed of around 25 kilometres an hour (15 mph), e-scooters have become a familiar sight on the city’s streets and cycle lanes.

But unless the e-scooter is rented and is involved in a trial, it is illegal to ride on a public road.

Erica Klose, a worker in the City of London, said coronavirus concerns and a desire to become greener had made her an e-scooter convert.

“Everything’s getting electric nowadays, so why not join the bandwagon like everybody else and become eco-friendly as well,” she said.

“It does get pretty crowded in the Tube (London underground) when you head to work in the morning and I would like to steer clear of that for a while until I feel more comfortable.”

Klose said she would be happy to be registered as a rider and to pay for insurance. “I think that is the way forward, as if it’s a motor vehicle,” she said.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps in May brought forward trials of rental e-scooters. They are set to start in London next spring, Transport for London has said.

Around 30 trials are currently under way in other regions, and the results will helping inform a decision on whether and how e-scooters might be legalised, the government has said.

Itzik Ben Aharon, managing director of e-scooter company 8Tev, wants the law to be changed as soon as possible so people can feel safe riding on public roads. “Why is the UK not leading in the legalisation of micro-mobility?” he said.

Rider Kwame Darko-Obiri said it was “bizarre” that he could not legally ride his e-scooter on the street.

“I am very safe, see I’m wearing my helmet,” he said. “I’m always padded up and I stay on the bike lanes, because it’s just as safe as riding a bike, even safer.”

($1 = 0.7359 pounds)

(Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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