You could be forgiven for assuming that electric bikes (or e-bikes) and electric scooters (or e-scooters) can be ridden in the same places and would be subject to substantially similar regulations. However, the reality of the matter is that the law deals with these two methods of transport in entirely different ways, and with more and more adults scooting their way through the daily commute, it is important to understand the difference.
Any “mechanically propelled vehicle, intended or adapted for use on roads” will be treated as a motor vehicle under s185(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and as such will be illegal to drive on a road unless certain requirements are met, e.g. insurance, legally certified helmet, a qualifying drivers licence, construction requirements and, down the line, an MOT.
You might think that as both electric bikes and electric scooters are mechanically propelled, it follows that they should both be considered “motor vehicles” for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act 1988. But, this is only true of one.
Electric scooters fall foul of the definition and it is illegal to use them on the road or the pavement.
On the other hand, legislation specifically provides for certain vehicles not to be treated as motor vehicles, including “any other mechanically propelled vehicle controlled by a pedestrian which may be specified by regulations made by the Secretary of State”. Unlike electric scooters, electric bikes can be legally ridden wherever a traditional pedal bike can be ridden e.g. on roads and bike lanes, altough It is worth noting that electric bikes are only legal provided they meet certain criteria set out in The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles – EAPC – (Amendment) Regulations 2015, in relation to weight, construction and voltage.
So, there is potentially a stark difference in the consequences of riding your electrically assisted pedal cycle through the town and hopping on your electric scooter to go to the shops. But, with electric scooters being kinder to the environment (and the pocket) than other forms of transport, there is rising pressure on the government to review legislation surrounding electric scooters.