Government publishes new guidance on e-bike and e-scooter safety

In a bid to enhance consumer safety, the Department for Transport (DfT) has released new guidance on how to “safely purchase, charge, and use e-bikes and e-scooters”.

Published on 1 February 2024, the guidance can be divided into several parts: fire safety guidance for users, owners, and transport operators; information for public transport operators on managing fire risk; and separate guidance for premises/building managers.

Applying to England, Scotland, and Wales, the government releases are in response to recent concerns by the fire and rescue services over the rising number of fire incidents involving lithium-ion batteries used in e-cycles and e-scooters.

For users in particular, advice is given on the best practices for buying e-cycles, replacement batteries and chargers, and e-cycle conversion kits, as well as safe practices for applying modifications, de-restriction, and dongles.

While most e-cycles are very safe, as with all products using lithium batteries, there is a risk of fire, particularly for counterfeit, damaged or poorly modified e-cycles and batteries, or when the incorrect charger is used,” the DfT states.

Further information is also provided to public transport operators and premise managers on how to assess and “proportionately manage” the risk of fire on public transport or in buildings/premises where such devices are being stored or charged. Of note is the legal requirements of having an up-to-date fire risk assessment in place, particularly with the “potential introduction of a new fire hazard”. Both premises managers and public transport operators are requested to monitor their premises or survey transport in order to “establish the current and likely future numbers and types of e-cycles and/or e-scooters” that may be used.

“Special attention should be paid to identifying any particular requirements or behaviours that may need to be accommodated (for example, the use of non-standard e-cycles by disabled passengers),” the documents add.

The government also offers some pointers regarding the mitigation of risk, including:

  • educating users about the risks and to encourage responsible purchase and use
  • provision of physical facilities in the public transport vehicle, where practical, or at the premises to ensure these devices can be used and charged safely
  • policies and rules or management of premises to address remaining risks.

The government has advised that until more specific guidance for residential premises is published, building managers should follow the advice given by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) in their Guidance Note GN103: charging and storage for electric powered vehicles, which can be found here.

Some of LFB’s advice includes avoiding the placement of storage and charging facilities in areas that could obstruct escape routes, updating or installing smoke control systems and water-based fire suppression systems, and an external means to isolate the electrical power within the storage/charging facility.

Importantly, the guidance states: “For buildings with dangerous external cladding that is still awaiting remediation, London Fire Brigade recommends that residents are instructed not to store any e-cycles or e-scooters within the building whatsoever until the cladding is replaced.”

Anthony Browne, Technology and Decarbonisation Minister, said: “Safety has always been our top priority, which is why our latest guidance aims to improve the awareness of e-bike and e-scooter users in the trial areas where they’re authorised.

The full guidance for battery safety for e-cycle users can be found here.

More information about government guidance for managing fire risk for public transport operators can be found here.

Further information about government guidance for managing fire risk for premises can be found here.