This is a tough one and for quite some time electric skateboards have largely flown under the radar of UK legislation. Another example of the law not keeping up with technology. So are they legal?
Here is a brief overview of where the world is at the moment regarding electric skateboards:
Singapore introduced e-skate laws allowing them to be used on footpaths up to 15km/h and 25km/h on cycle paths but still technically illegal on the roads.
The Danish government have recently approved many electric vehicles as of 1/1/2019, of course with some restrictions. Max speed of 20km/h, 15 year old minimum and you have to have lights on the rider or board with no mandatory insurance or registration.
Belgium has a similar attitude to electric skateboards and they fall under the same category as Segways allowing riders to use them in the same location as bicycles, limited to 25km/h.
For the Australian Road Rules, a person in or on a wheeled recreational device or wheeled toy is a pedestrian, not a rider (as in cyclist) and not a vehicle. A recent change in the law allows for ‘personal mobility vehicles’ to be used in Public Spaces and Road related areas. More generally you have to be over 16, wearing a helmet and many rules which apply to cars like not being drunk or using a mobile phone plus you’ll need some lights on while travelling at night.
Riders in California are allowed to use electric skateboards on bicycle paths and roads as long a a helmet is worn and the rider is over 16. They also require that they have lights and reflectors, in practice this usually means that a set of Shredlights or similar is enough for most cops to not be too bothered. They are however defined as a wheeled device with a propulsion system of less than 1000W and a max speed of 20mph.
It certainly seems to be heading in the right direction. but what about the UK…
Hoverboards and Segways
After a test case in 2011, a Barnsley man was fined £75 for riding his Segway on the pavement. In 2015 a 15 year old school boy was killed while riding a hoverboard on a public road after being hit by a bus. This led to the ban on most self balancing vehicles in public spaces. Now they are confined to use on private land. How much this is enforced is another question. Just a short drive through most suburbs and you’ll see some kids playing on hoverboards doing little harm.
You can ride an electric bike in England, Scotland and Wales if you’re 14 or over, as long as it meets certain requirements.
These electric bikes are known as ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). You do not need a licence to ride one and it does not need to be registered, taxed or insured.
An EAPC must have pedals that can be used to propel it. (If not it would essentially be an electric motorbike).
If your electric bike doesn’t meet these regulations – either because the motor is more powerful than 250W, or if it assists you when you’re riding more than 15.5 mph – it will need to be registered, insured and taxed as a motor vehicle. In this case, you will also need a driving licence, and you must wear a motorcycle helmet. On a side note, plenty of electric bikes have a button on the handlebars which disables the speed limiter.
Electric scooters are banned in public places but are being trialled in the Olympic Park In London in a Boris bike style scheme. Electric scooter rental services are quite common in larger US cities but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that they are deeply unpopular among many drivers. Inexperienced scooter riders without helmets accessing electric scooters from a few dollars has been a recipe for disaster and scooters can be found vandalised or destroyed across cities. For those using them and the businesses behind them, they are getting a lot of use and ride time. It’s a good stepping stone for the UK should electric scooters have some legislation to legalise them in some way.
So where are we in the UK for electric skateboards?
For now the area is unofficially grey, with no specific legislation for electric skateboards. Hoverboards, Onewheels and Electric Scooters are all banned in public places but as of yet Electric skateboards remain unlegislated.
Slick Revolution have spoken to the police on several occasions, their Unofficial advice being the following:
‘To be honest, the police have better things to do with their time. Unless you’re riding like an idiot through a town centre we’re unlikely to have any issue.’
This has been the general consensus whenever we have spoken to the police while out riding, most don’t know about the lack of law, aren’t aware of the law or simply aren’t bothered and have better things to be doing. Not to say that if you came across a bobby who was having a bad day that you wouldn’t get in trouble but for now the position is unclear.
There have been several email threads between esk8ers and the police or local governments trying to clarify the exact position. Most are ambiguous and wide open to personal interpretation with no police force able to truly clarify the their position within the law. For now the best advice most give to eskaters is to be sensible, courteous and always wear a helmet. Keep riding on the roads and pavements to a minimum and favour wide open public spaces like parks if you choose to ride in public. Every time you step on your electric skateboard you are representing the community whether you like it or not.
Electric skateboards are legal to own and use on private land which is of course a great starting point and they’re pretty discreet. Remember petrol powered longboards? Imagine trying to legalise those things, noisy, mucky and antisocial – no chance.
With the ban on production of petrol and diesel cars coming in 2050 and with our cities being more polluted than ever, it is without doubt that clean electric transport has to further integrate in to society’s needs in town and road planning, infrastructure and the introduction of personal electric charging points. The future is electric, everyone knows it, but will personal electric vehicles rather than just electric cars become a part of this future?
It’s without a doubt that if electric skateboards were legalised in the UK that there would be some form of restriction in terms of age and speed. The maximum allowed speeds across Europe are pretty slow for most but how will this be enforced? Mobile speed cameras? Seems unlikely to us, but the UK have done crazier things in the past!
Will the UK follow suit with other European countries or will it take a serious accident on UK roads to legislate against them?
Do you think that esk8ers should continue to fly under the radar hoping that the government legalises them in some form?
Should the esk8 community actively lobby the government and bring the issue to the surface?
Have you spoken to the police while out riding and what did they say if anything?
Let us know in the comments what you think…
Check out our range of electric skateboards here
Article accurate as of December 2018. It is your responsibility to fully investigate the legal position in your area.