Stepwing and the law – Are Stepwing pavement legal in the UK?
In short, the answer is YES! Stepwing is a fantastic alternative to walking and can provide safe and quick personal mobility around the city. However, finding anything written into law is hard to find.
Due to the size of the wheels, the Galaxy models fall under kick-scooter classifications whereas the Titan models fall under Bicycle regulations.
It is understood that Galaxy 1 Stepwing, like kick-scooters should be ridden on the pavement or walk-way, and not on the road. However, they do not have right-of-way on the pavement, cycle lane or the road, which could have legal implications if an accident were to occur.
NOTE: This article looks into the law in England and Wales only. Please note that European law is much more up to date, with current inclusivity around alternative modes of personal mobility and electric urban-mobility devices.
For example, if you look at the law which renders bicycles illegal on the pavement in England and Wales, The Highways Act 1835 Section 72, one could claim that the wording could be inclusive of scooters. Until this law is updated, the wording of the clause will continue to spark debate.
The Highways Act 1835 Section 72 (England and Wales)
It is clear that this law which was written nearly 200 years ago, is obviously outdated if not laughably so:
“If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon.” The Highways Act 1835 Section 72 (England and Wales)
However, it is this section 72 (written about animal herding) that renders bicycles illegal on the pavement (bicycles were so classified as ‘carriages’ in 1888) and also cars (cars were classed as ‘carriages’ in 1903) so should this also apply to Stepwing?
Section 72 – “carriage of any description”
Because of this catch-all definition of ‘carriage’, it must be explained that when it comes to pavements, we have to talk about right of way. Obviously pedestrians have priority, but what about the law? The BBC continues to state that “scooters and skateboards cannot legally be used on pavements….as they have no right of way over pedestrians” [BBC news Aug 2006]. We can agree that pedestrians have right of way, but this does not mean the same thing as Stepwing being illegal. There is no specification that Stepwing cannot share the pavement with pedestrians, although local bye-laws are able to specify otherwise.
Historically, English law is based on the fact that it is legal to do anything unless a law specifies otherwise. So perhaps it is more useful to compare a Stepwing with other non-mechanically propelled wheeled vehicles (or ‘roller’ category ie. skateboards, rollerblades etc.).
The Highway Code and common sense advise
Because of these ‘grey-areas’ regarding this roller category, it’s clear that a dose of common sense is applicable. One could, for instance, find it more helpful to take advice from the Highway Code rule 37 and 38 which apply to wheelchairs or ‘invalid carriages’ as it is legal for wheelchairs to share the road and pavement.
Rule 37: When you are on the road you should obey the guidance and rules for other vehicles; when on the pavement you should follow the guidance and rules for pedestrians.
Rule 38: Pavements are safer than roads and should be used when available. You should give pedestrians priority and show consideration for other pavement users, particularly those with a hearing or visual impairment who may not be aware that you are there.
Bicycle infrastructure – encouraging cycling over driving
It is common to see cyclist using the pavement particularly alongside a dangerous road or as a safer option for child cyclists. In both instances this would be illegal and you could pick up a fine. But we do it as busy roads are dangerous. In many areas of the UK, the cycle infrastructure is inadequate, or bikes are pushed into bus lanes. This lack of planning infrastructure for bikes is a big factor for people when encouraging motorists to change their habits. People are put off cycling by road danger, and so continue driving their cars even for short distances.
Stepwing infrastructure – encouraging Stepwing over driving
While commuter routes are increasingly cramped, roads are clogged and transport is expensive, Stepwing provides a fast alternative to walking as pavements provide a safer route. So the legality of Stepwing on pavements in the 21st century should not be contested. One Stepwing is one less car. In effect Stepwing infrastructure is existing. Pavements, footways and cycleways provide safe passage, without any investment from councils, while in effect reducing cars from the road.
Respect for pedestrians
Much of the time, pavements provide excellent free space for Stepwing, however it is important to respect pedestrians on those busy stretches in town centers. As rule 37 of the Highway Code states, “Pavements are safer than roads and should be used when available. You should give pedestrians priority and show consideration for other pavement users”. It is also important to stop at curbs, have good brakes, front and rear, and to wear a helmet if you are likely to pick up speed.
Titan models of Stepwing have larger wheels and both a front and back brake, therefore it is reasonable to classify them alongside bicycles, and as such follow the same rules and laws.
It is currently against the law to cycle on the pavement and back in 1999 this was made a fixed penalty offence.
The original guidance was issued by Paul Boateng the minister responsible at the time. He said:
The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users.
Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road. Sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.
For further guidance on how to safely and legally ride your Titan, please see the highway code rules 59 - 82.
Our guidance for the use of Stepwing is to be smart, treat other road and footpath users courteously and always be safe. Please check back for more information as it becomes available.