Transport for London (TfL) has slammed retailers, namely Halfords, for the use of illegal e-scooters across London. Although e-bikes are allowed to be used across the city, without significant barriers, e-scooters are not covered by the law in the same way. It means that although you can legally buy a private e-scooter to use, you cannot use it on a public road.
This creates a legal conundrum as retailers can sell e-scooters on the basis that they are going to be used on private land only, with permission of the landholder.
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The only legal way to ride an e-scooter on a public road in London is to rent one of the Dott, Lime or TIER e-scooters which are available in ten boroughs as part of a TfL co-ordinated trial which is to be reviewed in September.
In the meantime, TfL has needed to negotiate the legal grey area, as it wants to support the legal e-scooter trial scheme, but discourage people from breaking the law.
As there is little regulation, it has been difficult to introduce consistent safety standards. Since December 13, 2021, e-scooters have been banned from all TfL property, even though there are e-scooter trial parking bays next to some TfL stations which can confuse the public.
Three of the members of TfL's customer service and operational performance panel questioned TfL's director of strategy and innovation Thomas Ableman. They asked why TfL cannot simply block retailers from selling private e-scooters, given that the average person can only ride them legally 'around their garden'.
They all voiced their frustration with the scenario, given a number of high-profile accidents. He explained: “I think getting Halfords to stop selling unsafe e-scooters is gonna be really tricky.
"Will [Norman, the cycling commissioner] has written several times to them to ask them to label that these are not permitted to be used [on public roads] - and those labels are there, and they are very small, and you would never notice them."
He said TfL has worked closely with the Metropolitan Police to ensure bans on private e-scooters are enforced, but it is limited in what in can do as there is a lack of regulation.
He continued: "I’ve walked around Halfords - I shouldn’t keep saying Halfords [throws hands up], it’s not fair - I’ve walked around lots of retailers, other retailers are available, and have been really horrified at some of the speeds, some of the wheel sizes and that’s nothing to what you can buy online.
"So a fundamental issue has to be regulation. Exactly that; we don’t just want regulation for rental.”
TfL has worked with other cities' transport authorities to put a united case to the government as a new law would need to be passed to classify e-scooters as their own type of vehicle.
This would stop them falling under the 'powered transporter' category which they currently do right now, equating them to gardening vehicles, which does not make sense in the current environment. For now, as the law has not caught up with the technology, TfL is trying to use the September trial review date to improve safety and the overall experience for Londoners.
A spokesperson for Halfords told MyLondon: “Halfords has been widely recognised for our commitment to clearly explaining the law at every stage of the e-scooter sales process, both in-store and online. Last year, the then Transport Secretary Grant Shapps cited Halfords as his example of a ‘responsible’ e-scooter retailer when appearing before a committee of MPs.
"Kent’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, who has been critical of e-scooters, wrote in The Sun that Halfords is ‘doing the right thing and explaining the law’.
“The steps we take to make sure customers fully understand the law include, but are not restricted to: prominent signage next to e-scooters in stores, clearly explaining the law, including that they are not to be used on public roads, a clear legal statement on all e-scooter price tickets and warranties, our sales colleagues are trained to explicitly outline the legal position when the customer considers buying an e-scooter, till rolls and cash registers pop-up warnings to remind our colleagues to again inform customers of the law at the point of sale and the headers on all e-scooter product detail pages state it is illegal to use them on a public road, pavement or cycle lane.
“Halfords has also recommended to government that e-scooters should have a maximum speed of just 15.5mph, if and when e-scooters are legalised for private use on public roads. This in line with e-bikes and the typical speed of a mechanical bike.”
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