Existing laws only permit licensed e-scooters to hire in a number of towns and cities in the UK. Anyone with a private device is banned from riding them on public roads.
The new legislation will allow e-scooters under strict safety conditions such as speed limits and, potentially, requirements for helmets and indicators, Whitehall sources told i.
The move will be hailed by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapes, as part of plans to reduce carbon emissions. Commuting by e-scooter has become popular due to the high cost of fuel and Covid safety concerns on public transport.
However, the plans are expected to be controversial; campaigners say accidents related to e-scooters have sourced by 40 per cent between 2020 and 2021 following the introduction of the licensed hire pilot schemes.
A Freedom of Information request to all NHS Ambulance Trusts by the Major Trauma Group revealed that 173 patients were taken to A&E following an e-scooter accident in 2021, up from 124 in 2020.
Some 82 per cent more ambulances were called to assist e-scooter-related accidents during 2021 than in 2020, the figures revealed.
The largest increases were in Northern Ireland and north-west England.
Trevor Sterling, chair of the Major Trauma Group and senior partner at the law firm Moore Barlow, called on ministers to introduce tough safety measures and said the public needed to be educated on the new rules of the road.
He said: “E-transport technology is very exciting and will support the UK in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
“A change in the law to legalise private e-scooter use would hold e-scooters to a high standard of safety and help to lower greenhouse gas emissions from transport, as well as cutting congestion and repurposing streets away from cars. We must prioritise educating road users on the changing nature of our roads to keep everyone safe.
“It is only when all types of e-scooters are subject to the same rigorous standard of safety that we will see a reduction in preventable incidents and less strain on the NHS.”
Meanwhile, a rise in fires linked to more e-scooters has been reported. Fires caused by lithium batteries trebled between 2020 and 2021, according to figures from London Fire Brigade.
Most lithium battery blazes are caused by defective equipment, the wrong charger being used or items left on charge for too long.
Alastair Thomson, head of property claims at the insurance company Zurich UK, said: “With e-scooter numbers growing rapidly, we need to consider consumer safety at home, as well as on the road.
“Lithium battery blazes are already on the rise and it’s vital that people are aware of how they can safely store and charge the devices.
“Last year we saw multiple five-figure claims from battery blazes that left people’s homes damaged and possessions ruined. Lithium battery fires could become more frequent unless we do more to increase public awareness of the risks.
“We strongly urge people to buy accessories from reputable companies, follow manufacturers’ instructions on charging and avoid leaving batteries on charge when they leave the house.”
Paul Jennings, London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said: “We have seen a rise in the number of fires involving e-bikes and e-scooters and it’s vital people are aware of the risks.
“These items are often stored and charged in escape routes in homes or communal areas so when a fire does occur, escape routes are blocked which immediately makes an already serious situation much more frightening.
“We know lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used. Many of these incidents involve batteries which have been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards.”