You might have heard their faint electric hum behind you before they race past while you, reluctantly trodding home in the rain, wonder what they are and whether they’re even legal.

As lockdown restrictions eased off for a while and people stray away from the hustle and bustle of public transport that they used to call their second home, electrically powered scooters are becoming increasingly popular. I think for many people, coming out of the confinements of their houses and finally getting off social media, highlighted the importance of emission-free, socially distanced transport. 

From young teens hurrying to school to older adults coming home from a long day of work, these are perfect for all with their noise-free, long-lasting, easy to use transport making one feel like they are floating on air. But my question is, does that description sound familiar to anyone? Oh yes, Segways…

The rise of Segways in and around 2015 sparked the attention of people around the world. Variously known as ‘hoverboards' or ‘rideable’, they were ‘latest must-haves at the feet of celebrities’ with stars such as Justin Bieber and Wiz Khalifa among its devotees. However, even though they became a common sight in the UK's busy streets, they were banned under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 for use on the pavement and roads in the UK. Now to be fair, apart from the different designs, the exorbitant prices and the increased speed of the e-scooters; there isn’t much difference between these two products.

This exasperated many, of which included Former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opak who stated that it was ‘ridiculous and irrational that a 200-year-old law was being used to prevent people from using personal transporters. He said “ It’s insane because any common sense says that they are eco-friendly and a sensible alternative to public transport and cars.’ However, there were horrific tragedies and evidence which backed the danger that these innovative products presented. A 15-year-old boy was pronounced dead after riding a ‘hoverboard’ and then falling into a bus back in 2015. An eye witness told BBC London, “ I saw the guy on the hoverboard, I was just standing there next to him and then he fell into the road. He tried to get up but he wasn’t quick enough and then he was hit by a bus.’ 

Now back to the e-scooters, so, is it the same story all over again? Well no actually, it's the complete opposite. On Saturday 4th July 2020, electric scooters became legal on roads in England, Scotland and Wales if obtained through a share scheme. Once this was announced, e-scooter companies raced to get these vehicles outside, after the release of government guidance as part of a 12-month trial. 

Over the next 12 months, the trials will allow us to discover the true impacts of these and whether they are worth the potential risk or if they just add to the growing interest in micro-mobility. Moreover, in terms of the product’s LCA, even though they are hailed as a sustainable mobility option, their distribution, manufacturing and packaging are going to produce their CO2 emissions which e-scooter companies will indubitably need to look into.

This new legislation opens the perspective to whole new legislation of private e-scooter riding and the future of this product will certainly be fascinating. But for now remember that unlike these overpriced scooters, "safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless."