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The rise of the e-scooter in Portsmouth

by Ruth Johnson, serious injury lawyer

Portsmouth City Council in partnership with Solent Transport announced the launch of the Voi rental e-scooter trial in March this year. From the 16th March Portsmouth residents were able to rent an e-scooter. This scheme mirrors other trial schemes throughout England and is one location of the regional trial across the Solent area.

Despite these schemes the use of privately owned e-scooters remains illegal except on private land.

Portsmouth e-scooter trial

The scheme in Portsmouth means that there are around 370 rental e-scooters available to rent between 6am and 10pm. To be eligible to rent one you need to be 18-years-old or over and have a provisional driving licence. A copy of this licence needs to be uploaded to the Voi app when you first register to use the scooter.

Portsmouth is one of the first cities in the UK to have parking racks so that riders know where they can start and end their journeys. There are currently 47 racks with the latest being at St Mary's and Queen Alexandra Hospital. The scooters can only be used in certain areas and will come to a stop if they are taken outside of the areas of designated use.

E-scooter guidance issued

Voi guidance for using the scooters states:-

  • Only ride on roads, cycle paths and shared use paths
  • Never ride on pavements that are only for walking
  • Wear a helmet – it’s not required but it’s safer
  • Like with any other motor vehicle you must follow the Highway Code
  • Never drink and ride
  • Never ride with more than one person on the rental e-scooter
  • Never let someone else on the rental e-scooter during your ride
  • Before your first ride watch the Ridelikevoila safety training

The Voi e scooters are easily identifiable on the roads with their distinctive red colour. There are however still a large amount of private scooters that are being ridden on the roads around Portsmouth.

Serious injury lawyer welcomes sensible e-scooter scheme

Because an e-scooter is classed as a powered transporter and treated akin to a motor vehicle they fall under the Road Traffic Act. This means that they are subject to the same legal requirements as motor vehicles and need to be taxed, and insured. It is not currently possible to do this. 

The trial in Portsmouth where I live is a sensible and cautious way to explore whether e-scooters can be used across the UK in the future.  The e-scooters under the Portsmouth scheme are covered under a policy of insurance. If someone was to be involved in an accident or cause an injury to others whilst riding then there is insurance to satisfy a claim. 

However, if a privately owned scooter is  involved in an accident in a public place and causes harm to another road user it is unclear as yet whether the Motor Insurers Bureau which satisfy claims involving uninsured drivers would meet such.  There have been a number of reported cases nationally recently where individuals have been injured as a result of a collision with an e scooter  and have sustained life changing injuries .

PC David Hazlett, from Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police’s Road Safety Unit, said: “The emergence of e-scooters - either as part of government trials or those privately owned - has been rapid, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

“However, the law, as it stands, is very clear. Privately owned e-scooters can only be ridden on private land and with the landowner’s permission.

“There have already been a number of documented cases across the UK of riders and pedestrians being killed and seriously injured following collisions and of riders being prosecuted for impairment related offences.

“Our aim is to engage, educate but ultimately enforce the current legislation to reduce the threat, risk and harm caused by the illegal use of privately owned e-scooters and irresponsible use of e-scooters from hired schemes.””