TheArticle: Why are electric scooters still illegal?

This piece was first published on TheArticle.

Currently, riding an electric scooter on a public road will earn you six points on your driving licence and a £300 fine. This is a crazy, reactive policy. The government ought to be regulating electric scooters as much as is necessary to ensure their safety, and nothing more. It looks like that, at long last, is about to happen.

It was reported last week that ministers are expected to launch a consultation on how we should go about regulating electric scooters. According to the Times, we will soon be permitted to whizz around on them on roads and in cycle lanes. Legalisation will initially be implemented in cities on a trial basis, with a view to expanding the policy nationwide.

The legalisation of electric scooters is long overdue. The UK has fallen behind the rest of the world on this issue. France, Spain, Denmark, Israel and at least twenty US states have already made progress and granted millions of citizens the right to use them.As with all major innovations, when legalisation comes and “scooterism” takes hold, certain sections of the media will launch a scare campaign about this terrifying new threat to our safety and sanity. They will undoubtedly point to a single accident among the many thousands of new scooter users, just as they have done a hundred times before, and a sensationalist article will go viral.

This is no way to approach anything, and it is certainly not a remotely helpful basis upon which to construct government policy. Over 27,000 people were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s scooter-free roads in the past year. Electric scooters, besides everything else, are infinitely safer than our current transportation of choice.

We all take smartphones for granted, but not so long ago phones were anything but smart. They were clunky and heavy and their functionality was extremely limited. Nowadays, the term “smartphone” is obsolete; it’s a given that all new phones are smart. Electric scooters allow us to catch our first glimpse of what we might one day refer to as “smart cities”.

They are also emblematic of our gradual, but determined, move away from reliance on lung-clogging, road-jamming, carbon-emitting fossil fuel power in our cities, not to mention the stone-age technology of the bicycle. Electric scooters are innovative, green, safe and extremely fun.

Crucially, their environmental impact is practically non-existent. Their presence reduces numbers of car journeys dramatically and they run on recyclable batteries. Since they are electric, they will reduce their users’ carbon footprints exponentially, as the UK’s energy production continues its move over to renewable sources. They may even soon come with solar panels, allowing for seamless and harmless recharging on the go.

Electric scooters are the latest in a long list of clear illustrations of why the solution to the climate crisis lies not with government, but with the free market. The baffling “nanny-statism” that has resulted in them being banned in the UK represents a policy approach that is absurdly outdated.

The fabric of society and the way we live our lives is changing radically, and the same thing is beginning to happen to transport. Uber is packing our cities full of polar bear-friendly electric cars and we are slowly, but surely, embarking on the mammoth task of switching from petrol and diesel to electric cars. Electric scooters are a key part of that bottom-up transformation.

There are no losers here. If you don’t want to buy an electric scooter, you don’t have to. The market will be closely regulated, especially at first, so you don’t have to worry about being mowed down by a lunatic on a supercharged death machine while walking on the pavement. They are very good for the environment, the economy and their users, as well as other road users. What’s not to love?

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