London banned E-scooters on the underground metro system and busses following a number of accidents involving defective Lithium-ion batteries. Determined to be a fire risk, the electric scooter ban, which includes e-unicycles, prohibits Londoners from even folding up and carrying the scooters onto public transport.

The ban was enacted by Transport for London (TfL) after a group of passengers had to exit the tube because a passenger’s e-scooter caught fire. Aside from the fear of an exploded scooter, officials also cited safety concerns such as toxic smoke emitting in tight spaces.

According to the Daily Mail, there have been over 50 fires involving electric scooters in London in 2021, which is double the reported incidents since last year. They are often caused by third-party batteries becoming overheated, creating a fire risk.

“Our primary concern is always for the safety of our customers and staff,” said TfL Chief Safety Officer Lilli Matson. “We have been extremely worried by the recent incidents on our public transport services, which involved intense fires and considerable smoke and damage.”

“We have worked with London fire brigade to determine how we should deal with these devices,” she continued, “and, following that review, we have decided to ban them.”

Privately owned e-scooters remain illegal in London, but e-bikes and mobility scooters would still be allowed. Certain rental scooters around the city will still be allowed for use on streets on sidewalks, however, with the TfL explaining why they had more robust safety features than most electric scooters up for sale.

“Batteries can get warm during their use and it is advisable to allow them to cool down before attempting to recharge as they could be more susceptible to failure,” said a spokesman from the London Fire Brigade. “We also know many of these incidents involve batteries which have been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards.”

E-Scooter riders in Vienna, Austria, where thy are a popular means of transport
E-Scooter riders in Vienna, Austria, where thy are a popular means of transport. But is the fire risk a safety concern for everyone? Photo Credit: Shutterstock

With London’s e-scooter ban, many are wondering if the decision will carry over into other parts of the world, such as the U.S.

In Nov. 2020, New York City lifted their ban on e-scooters, citing the need for cheap travel despite documented safety concerns. Many critics of the ban said that they used the scooters to get to work or to deliver food. E-bikes were already allowed for this specific purpose and have greatly increased in usage since the pandemic. Those who use electric scooters must be over 16 and wear a helmet.

“It couldn’t come at a better time during this Covid era,” Councilman Fernando Cabrera said at the time. “The world is recognizing that we have a new, alternative mode of transportation. For essential workers especially, they’re going to feel more comfortable now.”

Electric scooters and mopeds are primarily used by delivery workers in the city, which has become a much larger workforce during Covid-19.

Other cities in the U.S. such as Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and even Hoboken, have embraced several app-based rental companies for e-scooters, though citizens have also complained about how the vehicles are left around the city.

With some companies not requiring docks in the same way bikes rentals like Citi Bike offer, electric scooters are left wherever the user pleases, a move many citizens call “dangerous.”

Leaving bikes out not only adds to increased neighborhood traffic – as they are constantly being removed – but the habit creates problems for the disabled and for emergency vehicles. Trucks for companies such as Lime, Bird, and Jump would drive around and collect the e-scooters for re-charging, but it’s tough to scour the entire city multiple times a day, especially when there are zero drop-off points.

“The companies have to send out a really strong message,” one citizen told the BBC, “but actually people just need to think more about others.”