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What are the rules for electric scooters in London? E-scooters banned from all UK canal towpaths

In 2020, a 28-year-old yoga instructor was knocked into Regents Canal in London by an e-scooter rider (Dominic Lipinski /PA Archive)
In 2020, a 28-year-old yoga instructor was knocked into Regents Canal in London by an e-scooter rider (Dominic Lipinski /PA Archive)

E-scooters have been banned from all UK canal towpaths under a new code of conduct issued by the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT).

The number of people using towpaths is at a record high. They had nearly 900 millon visitors last year, more than during the Industrial Revolution.

E-scooters are technically not legal for use in public places, including roads and pavements but have become increasingly popular nonetheless. In 2020, the CRT said it would consider whether they could be safely allowed on towpaths.

That same year, a 28-year-old yoga instructor was treated in hospital after being knocked into Regents Canal in London by an e-scooter rider.

E-scooters have already been banned on trains. South Western Railway, Southeastern, Southern Rail, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Scotrail made the move in June, while Avanti West Coast, LNER, Northern, TransPennine Express and Transport for London (TfL) already had a ban in place.

E-scooters run on lithium ion batteries, which would make them dangerous if the batteries were to explode and catch fire.

Here’s what else you need to know about how to ride e-scooters legally.

When and where can I ride an e-scooter legally in London and what are the rules?

E-scooters should not exceed 12.5mph (Andrew Matthews/PA Archive)
E-scooters should not exceed 12.5mph (Andrew Matthews/PA Archive)

The London e-scooter rental scheme is approved by the DfT. E-scooters and powered transporters may be used on private land with permission from the landowner or occupier but several laws make them illegal on public roads:

  • Driving a motor vehicle with no insurance – you could be liable for a fixed penalty of £300 and six points on your driving licence.

  • Driving vehicles on pavements is generally an offence – this applies at all times to all types of e-scooters and powered transporters.

  • Riders must be 18 or over and have a full or provisional driving licence to rent an e-scooter.

Some of the laws do not apply to mobility scooters or e-bikes (electrically assisted pedal cycles), which are not treated as motor vehicles. The Gov.uk website has details of the law on powered transporters.

What is an e-scooter?

An e-scooter, or electric scooter, is propelled by a motor. The first e-scooter, the Go-Ped, was released in 1985 by Steve Patmont.

The first motorised scooter was manufactured by Autoped in 1915.

How can I rent an e-scooter?

Since June 2021, e-scooters have been available to rent in a number of London boroughs.

Rental e-scooters are provided by three operators:

You can rent the operator’s e-scooters through providers’ mobile phone apps. You will need to:

  • Download the app of your chosen operator.

  • Complete the registration process, including verifying your age and driving licence.

  • Complete the mandatory in-app training before your first ride.

You will then be able to find an e-scooter using the app’s location function, which shows you all e-scooters nearby. Use a QR code or vehicle ID displayed on the e-scooter to unlock it in the relevant operator’s app.