With crowded public transport a Petri dish of germs at the best of times, the relaxing of lockdown and reopening of schools is creating new logistic problems. Education authorities are asking for staggered school drop-offs to limit interaction and for limited car use. Could electric scooters be the answer to commuting problems?
It’s a nice thought to think we will be organised enough to walk to school with no rush, enjoying the sunshine and most likely our children on a standard scooter. Our journey is a 20-minute walk, and I often get complaints about tired legs.
E-scooters are good for small distances, but also average 20mph so can be used in the bike lanes (although the 1835 Highways Act needs updating for Electric Scooters). Often considered the answer to the first/last mile problem to link public transport use, most school runs fall within a mile radius. Being lightweight and foldable, if it’s possible to leave the scooters then you don’t have to ride them back.
Of course, it does highlight child safety. Helmets and knee pads are essential due to speeds and any bumps in the terrain. The recommended minimum age for electric scooters is 8 and over, and slower speeds are safer all round (the lower the wattage, the slower the scooter).
It’s also crucial to point out that with motorized vehicles technically not being allowed on pavements, there is a grey area that highlights the need for common sense and responsible driving to ensure road safety. If your child already uses a scooter, a slow speed motorised version should not be unmanageable. But always test this out in a safe area prior to any road use. Children’s safety should always be a priority.
It’s worth mentioning the law in detail and there are two sticking points. Firstly, the battery gives them a Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV) classification. Secondly, it does not have pedals it cannot be considered a bike. That, in theory, like the Segway makes it illegal on roads, pavements and cycle lanes. And it’s highly unlikely that your walk to school will be a majority of a literal walk in the park.
Either way, the environment needs alternative modes of transport that are greener, cleaner, and cheaper than cars so rule changes are imminent. The Department for Transport is currently firming the rules up with trials and aim to cover minimum age for riders, speed limits, licensing, insurance and helmets. And the crucial question of where they are best placed; cycle lane or pavement. Special allowances are already made for electric mobility vehicles which suggest it’s likely to be speed based ruling and hopefully split so kids can ride safely.