E-scooters should be legalised in the UK within the next 18 months to help make cities greener, MPs have said.
A consultation by parliament’s transport committee found e-scooters could be an effective way to cut car journeys and clean up the air.
Renting scooters as part of an e-scooter sharing scheme was legalised for use on the road by the Department of Transport on 4 July.
But the vehicles cannot be used on the pavement and privately owned e-scooters still remain illegal on roads.
MPs said the vehicles, which can travel at more than 15mph, should remain banned from pavements for pedestrian safety.
Committee chair Huw Merriman said: “E-scooters have the potential to become an exciting and ingenious way to navigate our streets and get from place to place.
“If this gets people out of the car, reducing congestion and exercising in the open air, then even better.”
But he added: “We need to ensure that their arrival on our streets doesn’t make life more difficult for pedestrians, and especially disabled people.”
E-scooters are already popular in several European cities like Paris and Lisbon, thanks to sharing schemes.
However, the use of them in the UK has been complicated due to their classification as a motor vehicle under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
It says e-scooters cannot be used on the UK’s roads – one of the last countries in Europe where this is the case.
Motor vehicles are required to have number plates, with users needing to have a driver’s licence, insurance and wear a helmet.
The committee also heard evidence that local authorities would need extra funding to enforce any new safety restrictions introduced to govern e-scooters.
The transport committee called for e-scooters to be opened up to everyone – even those without a licence – and helmets to be strongly recommended but not mandated by law.
Currently, riders need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence to use the vehicles, and must be aged 16 or over.
Several areas, including Teesside, Hartlepool, Milton Keynes Borough, Northamptonshire, and the West Midland have now signed up for the trial phase ahead of a potential national rollout.
Mr Merriman said: “Before proceeding with plans to legalise the use of e-scooters, local authorities and government must use the trials to monitor this closely, put enforcement measures in place and ensure they are effective in eliminating this behaviour.”
The committee also said that e-scooters should be promoted as an alternative to short car journeys and not to other active forms of transport such as walking or cycling.
Road safety campaigners have voiced concerns in the past over the vehicles which were responsible for more than 1,600 incidents in 2018.
YouTube star Emily Hartridge, 35, became the first e-scooter rider to be killed in the UK in 2019.
She was given the device as a birthday present by her boyfriend Jacob Hazell.
He has called on the government to make sure the vehicles are safe before being rolled out nationwide.
Research by scooter-sharing operator Lime found that 8% of e-scooter trips had replaced car or taxi journeys across Paris, Lyon and Marseille, while this rose to 21% in Lisbon.
But in France 44% of users said they would have walked their trip if e-scooters had not been available, although only 6% said they were walking less overall since they were introduced.
The transport committee also emphasised the importance of designing a system to prevent “street clutter” whereby the dockless scooters are left on the pavement causing a hazard.
In 2018, Chinese dockless bike rental firm Mobike pulled out of Manchester due to the volume of vehicles stolen, vandalised or dumped.
Bicycles were spotted thrown in waterways, set on fire or left hanging from railings, while others had locks smashed to enable people to keep them.
The transport committee said e-scooter “parking hubs” should be considered to avoid the problem of e-scooters obstructing the pavement.
It also raised the issue of sustainability, and that short life cycle of many models and the fact that due to the design, many e-scooters are scrapped rather than repaired.
AA president Edmund King said: “We support the legalisation of e-scooters for use on the public highway, as long as certain safety criteria are met.
“As the safest option, we would support the use of e-scooters on extended dedicated cycle ways and recommend some form of training before setting off on the public highway.”
The transport committee recommended that speed limits for scooters be set by local authorities but the AA said limits should be agreed at a national level.