Rental electric scooters will become legal on Britain’s roads from Saturday after the government gave the go-ahead for 12-month trials.
The first pilot schemes could launch next week and will test whether the vehicles can provide “green alternative” to local travel, according to the Department of Transport.
Riders must be aged at least 16 and will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence.
The e-scooters will be limited to a speed of 15.5mph and cannot be used on pavements. However the trials do not include Northern Ireland.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way, which could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities across Great Britain.
“E-scooters may offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing.
“The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.”
E-scooters are currently banned in the UK on public roads and pavements but the vehicles have become increasingly popular. The Metropolitan Police caught nearly 100 riders in London in a single week last summer.
YouTube star and TV presenter Emily Hartridge became the first person in the UK to be killed while riding an e-scooter when she was struck by a lorry in Battersea, south London, in July last year.
Campaigners have described the road ban as “outdated” and claim that the vehicles offer an environmentally friendly alternative to cars.
Alan Clarke, director of UK policy and government affairs at US scooter rental firm Lime, said: “Today’s announcement that the UK is embracing micromobility, with trials of e-scooters now able to begin, presents a real opportunity for change.
“E-scooters have been commonplace on roads and in cities across Europe for some time and Lime users around the world have already taken more than 150 million rides, saving more than 12,000 tonnes of CO2, whilst helping to reduce congestion and air pollution.
“Over the coming days, weeks and months as trials start, we’re looking forward to building healthier, greener and safer cities across the UK.”
While the the use of private e-scooters on public roads will remain banned, the government said the rental trials would “create the evidence necessary to guide final decisions about whether and – if so – how to fully legalise e-scooters.”
Additional reporting by Press Association