Whether it's in the side streets or the bicycle lanes, it's not hard to find electric scooters here in Hong Kong. Riders all love them for their convenience. Though in recent years, there have been accidents involving these electric vehicles in question. At the end of last year, two people severely injured their heads while riding an electric scooter, then passed away in the emergency ward. Are there any laws involving electric scooters in Hong Kong? Do you need to secure an insurance plan if you drive one? Today at Kwiksure, our team of experts will dive into these questions for you.
You don't need to be registered or have a driver's license for electric scooters
Right now, the law in Hong Kong still views electric scooters as substandard "electric mobility devices". According to the Road Traffic Ordinance, an "automobile" includes all mechanically propelled vehicles. This extends to all electricity-powered unicycles, scooters, balance bicycles, and bicycles. To legally drive an electric mobility device in Hong Kong, you need to obtain a license from the Transport Department (TD).
In 2001, TD stated that electric scooters are not suited for driving on roads, which is why there was no registration or awarding of driver's licenses. In other words, it is illegal to drive electric scooters on the road. Anyone driving an electric mobility device on traffic lanes, roads, pavements, or bike lanes may be breaking the law. Ranging from relatively minor offenses to the most serious offense with 10 years of jail time, these include:
- Driving an unregistered vehicle
- Driving without a license
- Driving without third-party car insurance
- Careless driving
- Dangerous driving
- Causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving
- Causing death by dangerous driving
This April, the police stepped up the crackdown on the illegal use of electric mobility devices. Numerous users were charged with "driving an unregistered vehicle", "driving without a valid driving license", "using a vehicle without third-party insurance" and "driving without wearing an approved protective helmet", as well as other charges.
Violating the Road Traffic Ordinance will affect your insurance claims
As mentioned, driving an electric scooter (i.e. an unregistered vehicle) on the road, or even on a private road, violates related laws on the Road Traffic Ordinance. This will affect your insurance claims.
Under normal circumstances, you can still receive compensation if you accidentally hurt someone, but possess third-party car insurance. Because riding an electric scooter is illegal in Hong Kong, even if you already own third-party car insurance, you won't get compensated. Of course, this won't affect you if you're a victim of this accident and have bought individual accident insurance or life insurance. As long as you prove that you were injured in an "accident", then you can still receive your claims.
The government intends to allow electric scooters on bicycle lanes
Recently, TD plans to amend the law. Electric scooters and electric bicycles are both allowed to drive on the bike lane, but not the traffic lanes. In December of 2017, TD commenced the Consultancy Study on Enhancing Walkability in Hong Kong. It explored the regulatory policies for electric mobility devices in different cities. Most of the 12 jurisdictions or cities in the study don't allow the use of electric bicycles and electric mobility devices, namely electric scooters, electric balance vehicles, and electric unicycles, on the pedestrian road.
Hong Kong designed roads that are centered around automobiles, so there are no bike lanes at all. On top of that, our city is crowded with people and cars, even in non-business districts. With such busy, bustling streets, it's not recommended to use electric mobility devices or electric bicycles in the traffic lanes. However, you still have the option to ride freely on bike lanes.
Expect the TD to start making amendments to the Road Traffic Ordinance next year. To test the public's acceptance for electric mobility devices and electric bicycles on cycling tracks, it will conduct field trials in the Hong Kong Science Park and Tseung Kwan O. You will see this starting in the second half of the year. Also, TD will test the user interactions between electric bicycles and ordinary bicycles, and the effect of imposing certain safety requirements on users. Then, it will set further relevant regulations and technical requirements, such as speed control, safety devices, user age restrictions, and technical specifications, and will study the introduction of penalties.
Traffic laws concerning electric scooters in other countries
In the future, will we need to buy insurance for electric scooters? Of course, we'll have to refer to amendments to the Road Traffic Ordinance. Maybe the countries included in the Consultancy Study on Enhancing Walkability in Hong Kong, and the ways with which they handle electric scooters will shed some light on this question.
Aside from Barcelona, Germany, France, and Queensland, Australia, other areas/cities do not require drivers to purchase insurance for their electric mobility devices.
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