A 183-year-old law created for horse-drawn carriages has frustrated Silicon Valley’s buzziest startups

Horse carriage

A 183-year-old law originally designed to regulate horse-drawn carriages is partly responsible for preventing buzzy Silicon Valley scooter startups from expanding to the UK.
The 1835 Highways Act prevents cattle, horses, and “carriages” — like scooters — from riding the pavement.
Two startups, Bird and Lime, have been in talks with UK regulators about bringing electric scooter hire to London, but can’t launch unless the laws change.
They have a chance to influence the law, however, because the British government is currently examining whether transport regulation might be getting in the way of innovation.

Electric scooter startups are spreading across the US, and raising billions of dollars in venture capital as investors pile into the boom in on-demand transport.

The idea is simple: Startups such as Bird, Lime, Jump, and Spin leave their electric scooters available for hire all over a city. Anyone wanting to use one can find one nearby via an app, “unlock” it with the app, then hire it for a small fee per minute. Once they reach their destination, they can leave the scooter anywhere.

But not in the UK.

Electric scooters are illegal on public UK streets and pavements, meaning Bird and its rivals would be flouting the law if they tried to launch in Britain. And that’s partly thanks to a 183-year-old act originally designed to stop nuisance behaviour from horse-drawn carriage drivers, and those driving cattle.

The UK government categorises electric scooters as “carriages,” which are not permitted on pavements under the 1835 Highways Act. Here’s the specific passage banning animals and “carriages” from footpaths:

“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.”

It might sound like something from a Charles Dickens novel, but this is genuinely enshrined in British legislation.

And what about electric scooters on roads?

That’s still (mostly) illegal, because the government requires scooter owners to register their vehicles with the DVLA, the UK’s driving authority. And in order to pass the DVLA’s strict requirements, a scooter would need to have three wheels (most operate with two), and be fitted with brakes and lights. That rules out most popular types of scooter.

These regulations have floored American scooter startups trying to expand to the UK, according to emails released to Business Insider last week under the Freedom of Information Act.

“[The] legislation that is in effect is +100 years old,” complained Bird’s UK head Richard Corbett in an email to Transport for London, the capital’s transport regulator.

Bird’s European boss Patrick Studener wrote that the laws might need changing. “We fully appreciate that this might require reviewing the laws mentioned dating as far back as 1835 and …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Tech

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