PSNI threaten heavy fines and vehicle seizure as numbers increase on our streets
Police have warned electric scooter users that they face hefty fines and seizure of the vehicles if they operate them on public roads.
It follows a proliferation of so-called ‘e-scooters’ on Northern Ireland’s roads in recent months, despite them being illegal unless used on private property.
A senior PSNI officer told the Belfast Telegraph that police have “stepped up enforcement action regarding these vehicles and their riders” after noticing their increased popularity.
Although environmentally friendly, e-scooters — which can be modified to reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour — have not been approved for public road usage.
They have, however, been used in hundreds of robberies, assaults, thefts and other crimes in various UK cities over recent months, with criminals preferring them to bicycles or mopeds because they are fast, silent — and unregistered.
Inspector Rosie Leech, from the PSNI’s Road Policing Unit, warned that e-scooter misuse would invariably lead to penalties.
“They should only be used on private property with the permission of the landowner and should not be on pavements, roads or public spaces,” she said.
“Anyone found using one on a public road or in a park should expect to receive a formal warning as a minimum course of action.
“There is also the real possibility of riders being issued with fixed penalty notices.
“Officers also have powers to seize a motor vehicle which is being used in a manner likely to cause annoyance, with a fee of £150 payable to release the vehicle.”
In Great Britain, the punishments are even more severe, with riders risking a £300 fixed penalty notice and six points on their driving licence if stopped by police.
Insp Leech added that while there is not “a trend around e-scooters linked to criminal behaviour” in Northern Ireland, the PSNI is “aware of the potential” so there is “a focus on enforcement”.
Several people have died as a result of e-scooter accidents, including well-known YouTube blogger Emily Hartridge (35), who was thrown under a lorry in Battersea, in July 2019, and died from multiple injuries.
A coroner later found that an under-inflated tyre had been a factor in her death.
Over the past year, trials have taken place throughout the UK as the government considers whether to bring legislation in line with the majority of other European countries who allow e-scooters on their roads.
Even then, new legislation may apply to rented vehicles only.
It is not illegal to buy e-scooters and they are widely available online and in local outlets and chains such as Halfords at a cost of between £300 and £700.
Inspector Leech explained that an e-scooter is only permissible on roads here if it is properly adapted as a legitimate motor vehicle.
“This means the rider requires a driving licence and the vehicle must be taxed, insured and fitted with lights and a number plate,” she said.
“As the vast majority of e-scooters and riders will not be able to comply with these legal requirements, they are consequently restricted to ‘off-road’ use only.
“They should only be used on private property with the permission of the landowner and should not be on pavements, roads or public spaces.”
A normal, unmodified e-scooter has a maximum speed of 15.5mph and a maximum range of up to 30 miles. Charging time varies between five and 10 hours.
Halfords, who have 13 branches in Northern Ireland, make it clear on their website that it is illegal to use an e-scooter on a public road, pavement, cycle lane or bridal way.
The company adds, however, that they have recently launched a petition to get the law changed.
Their online statement says: “Our petition calls for the government to legalise the use of all electric scooters on public roads, and for the UK laws to catch up with the rest of the world.
“They are legal and allowed on the streets of many countries across Europe and elsewhere.”
In the Republic, the Irish government recently gave approval to draft new legislation regarding e-scooters and electric bikes.
Southern Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that, unlike in Northern Ireland, tax, insurance and driving licences would not be required for the use of e-scooters, which “have become an increasingly popular form of personal mobility in a short period of time”.
He added “These devices are not currently legal under Irish road-traffic law. I am implementing the commitment in the programme for government to regulate their use, so they can be used in a safe manner.”