The joyful transport revolution: why Britain should legalise e-scooters

A couple ride an e-scooter in Los Angeles. Image: Getty.

Gosh, I look forward to the morning commute on my e-scooter. The fresh air, gliding past rows of queuing cars, the wonderful sights of London passing me by. Alright, I’m lying, I got to work on the Central and Victoria lines. The air on the Central line has never been described as fresh, and the rat scurrying across the lines at Oxford Circus was the only sight to take in.    

But is this set to change? The UK government is launching a consultation this month into legalising e-scooters, currently banned on all but private land. For the good of cities, it should declare them legal on roads and cycle paths.

E-scooters have the potential to be transformational. So called micromobility (essentially not a car, bus or train) can get people out of their cars and take the strain off a creaking public transport network. A study in Portland, Oregon found 34 per cent of e-scooter riders had switched over from cars. Studies have also shown that they are more popular with women when compared to cycling.    

I have also noticed that the kind of people who come back from Paris or California raving about “this future of transport” are not just part of my city design obsessed echo chamber. One even drives an SUV. They didn’t come back declaring how e-scooters can move six times as many people per metre of road space compared to cars (they can). They simply described to me the sheer joy they experienced getting around on two small wheels for the whole time they were away.

For cities like London, in the thick of a housing crisis where space is a premium, storage is crucial. My partner recently learnt to cycle (through the truly wonderful, and free, TfL cycle skills programme) and would dearly love to own a bike. But we just don’t have anywhere safe to store it. An e-scooter, easier than a bike to carry up narrow staircases and store conveniently, removes this. 

What’s the hold up? There are two pieces of legislation banning e-scooters. Firstly, The Highway Act of 1835 which prohibits the use of powered transporters on pavements: I think this is sensible. In the hierarchy of transport pedestrians and wheel users must always come top, and it’s clear a scooter travelling at 15.5mph does not belong on a pavement.

The second regulation, The Road Traffic Act 1988 treats e-scooters like any other motorised vehicle, requiring insurance, MOTs and would perversely require them to have more powerful motors. This should change. They should be treated the same as e-bikes. The only difference between them being the rotation of your legs. 

Walking and disability assistance should always be top. E-scooters should appear with cycling. Image: Bicycle Innovation Lab, Copenhagen UK.

Thankfully it seems we may finally be seeing the light and could bring ourselves into line with most European countries. I urge you, for the good of the cities across the UK, to support their legalisation and help our cities move to a pollution and emission-free future.

Maybe this time next year I really will be gliding to work with a smile on my face, rather than sharing the tunnels of London with squished humans and scurrying rodents.

David Milner is an urban designer and project manager at Create Streets.


Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.