Meanwhile, a panel of experts has called for mandatory insurance for e-scooters before the situation becomes ‘untenable’ for the MIB

E-scooter commuters who bring the vehicles onto buses, trains and tubes in the London transport network are now being prosecuted and fined by Transport for London (TFL) as concerns grow that they will combust and injure passengers. 

According to the Evening Standard, the new crackdown follows two recent fire related incidents on TFL services. TFL banned e-scooters from being brought onto its transport network in December 2021 and has now begun prosecuting those who flout its rules. 

In November 2021, an e-scooter burst into flames on an underground train on the District Line, causing passengers to be evacuated at Parsons Green station.

According to July 2022 figures from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), more than 900 individuals have been involved in private e-scooter accidents, with over 20 deaths since 2019.

Earlier this month, law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp hosted a roundtable entitled The Future of e-scooter Regulation: A Stakeholder Discussion.

During this, key representatives from the legal profession, insurance industry, transport safety sector and the police, agreed that the UK was on course to deliver e-scooter regulation but could fail to address current safety, insurance and enforcement issues.

The lack of urgency around introducing the Transport Bill was also leaving private e-scooter riders and others at risk, representatives said.

Ben Pepper, associate solicitor for accident claims at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “It’s very rare to have this many senior stakeholders and policy influencers from different perspectives in one room, agreeing on a way forward for electric scooter safety.”

 The panellists made several calls to action:

  • Mandatory insurance: The current situation could become untenable for the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) – which currently pays out compensation for accidents – if riders aren’t required to have insurance and could increase insurance premiums for other road users. 
  • Insurance caps guidance: If compulsory insurance is required for lawful e-scooter use in public, the maximum indemnity should not be capped too low. Otherwise, compensation payouts will not be enough to cover the costs of rehabilitation, loss of earnings and dependents, home adaptations and life-long care following a serious injury, such as brain injury – which can exceed £10m. 
  • Broad definition of e-scooters in law to encompass future models: Under the new classification, e-scooters would be classified as low-speed, zero-emission vehicles (LZEV) instead of motor vehicles. There is a risk of the law quickly falling behind reality, which would likely void insurance policies. 
  • Drink and drug driving outlawed: Classifying e-scooters as LZEVs would have a knock-on impact on other laws such as drink driving. The government must ensure a comprehensive framework to protect riders, pedestrians and other road users.
  • Resources for the police to manage enforcement: Police currently do not have enough resources to control the illegal use of these vehicles.
  • Helmets should be made mandatory: PACTS figures showed more than 40% suffered a serious head injury in e-scooter accidents, so helmets should be made mandatory. 
  • Public infrastructure for e-scooters:  Geofencing of private e-scooters which would stop vehicles working in high pedestrian areas, but is difficult. 
  • Mandatory theory tests, lowering speed limits, clarifying passing distances: The government should consider mandatory theory tests, lowering the current speed limit of  15.5mph, alongside the minimum age requirement of 16 and the holding of a provisional driving licence, to increase driver awareness and prevent accidents. A safe passing distance is needed in the Highway Code.