REVEALING THE TRUTH ABOUT THE POLICING OF E-SCOOTERS IN THE UK
Written by Ed Wiles, Scootered Founder
After the death of YouTuber Emily Hartridge, when she collided with a lorry while riding an e-scooter in July 2019 (at a London roundabout where a cyclist has also been killed), the government announced a crackdown on e-scooters but it proved short-lived and restricted to London. Since then, e-scooters have vastly grown in popularity and, in 2020, police forces again warned against their use, despite the fact that they offer a zero carbon alternative to cars and e-scooter hire schemes are being trialled in various UK cities (and statistics show that private owners are more responsible than hirers) because they remain classified as motor vehicles and, as they are not taxable, are therefore not legal to ride on public roads. Read more about the law on e-scooters. To see if police forces really are implementing the law, I made FOI requests to all UK police forces for data on e-scooter seizures and fines covering 2019, and included the reuslts in the table below. In 2021, I have made new FOI requests and am updating the table as the results come in.
What is an e-Scooter?
E-scooters (or electric scooters) are those such as the Xiaomi 1S and hired by the likes of Lime and Bird. Some confusion stems from mopeds also being called scooters - and were a moped battery-powered it could reasonably be called an "electric scooter".
The results show that many more police forces took action against e-scooter riders in 2020 compared with 2019 (when only the two London forces seized multiple e-scooters). However, the results from 2020 suggest that police forces outside of London are still taking relatively little action against riders. For instance, Kent and Surrey saw only five and twelve confiscations respectively in 2020. Unfortunately, there is no data on the number of e-scooter owners per county, but both Kent and Surrey have large numbers of commuters travelling into London via train. The Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, confiscated 284 e-scooters in 2020, which works out as about five a week. This seems like a colossal waste of resources to me, when only one in twenty shoplifters are prosecuted.
Fines and Confiscations by Each Police Force
|Avon & Somerset||UNAVAILABLE||UNAVAILABLE|
|City of London Police||0||12||0||2|
|Devon & Cornwall Police||0||0||0||4|
|Metropolitan Police Service||UNAVAILABLE||54||UNAVAILABLE||284|
|Norfolk Constabulary||UNAVAILABLE||1 *||UNAVAILABLE||12|
|North Wales Police||UNAVAILABLE||0|
|South Wales Police||0||0|
|West Mercia Police||0||0||4||0|
|West Midlands Police||UNAVAILABLE||0||UNAVAILABLE||0|
|West Yorkshire Police **||UNAVAILABLE||0||0||14|
* Norfolk reported an "adapted child's scooter" being seized for not having insurance. I have to assume they mean an e-scooter.
** West Yorkshire Police recorded two seizures of "electric scooters" in 2019 but closer inspection revealed one was in fact an electric bicycle with its pedals missing, meaning that neither of the reported "electric scooter" seizures could be considered reliable.
Confiscations By Metropolitan Police Per Month (see results including 2019)
| Month (2020)
Recovering Your Electric Scooter
Having your e-scooter "seized" sounds catastrophic, but what the London police forces are failing to mention in their publicity is that you can simply retrieve your e-scooter - or "motor vehicle" - from one of their vehicle recovery units (in Charlton or Perivale). It costs £150 plus £10 for every day it is there. It is thus probably worth your while retrieving it. And the best way to avoid having your e-scooter confiscated in the first place seems to be to avoid doing anything "aggravating": the Met Police have stated that there would need to be aggravating circumstances for them to confiscate your e-scooter (though I have heard claims to the contrary).