Q1. Are electric mobility devices treated as “motor vehicles”? Is riding on electric mobility devices (e.g. electric scooters, electric unicycles, electric hoverboards, electric skateboards, electric bicycles, etc.) illegal in Hong Kong? What charges could be laid against the riders?
The term “electric mobility devices” usually refers to electric scooters, electric unicycles, electric hoverboards, electric skateboards, electric bicycles, etc.
As defined under the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374), “motor vehicle” means “any mechanically propelled vehicle”, and “motor cycle” means “a two-wheeled motor vehicle with or without a sidecar”.
With such definitions and from a legal perspective, electric bicycle is a motor cycle and all other electric mobility devices are motor vehicles.
However, according to the leaflet “Electric Mobility Devices are banned on roads (including footpaths)” published by the Transport Department, electric mobility devices are banned on roads. It is interesting to note that:
- the Transport Department confirms the legal position that electric mobility devices “are likely ‘motor vehicles’ under the Road Traffic Ordinance”;
- it then states that electric mobility devices “are not suitable to share road spaces with ordinary vehicles, no matter from the road safety perspective or from the smooth traffic angle. They are also not suitable for use on footpaths. Therefore, it is a general policy of the Transport Department that such mobility devices would not be registered or licensed under the Road Traffic Ordinance”; and
- it then concludes that since electric mobility devices will not be registered or licensed, riding one on the road “may constitute an offence under section 52 of the Road Traffic Ordinance and is liable in the case of a first conviction for that offence to a fine at level 2 (currently $5000) and to imprisonment for 3 months”.
It is not difficult to see that the Transport Department’s decision to ban electric mobility devices is based on safety concern and is probably reasonable and realistic. But this administrative measure is irreconcilable with the existing law. It fails to answer the fundamental question: since electric mobility devices are motor vehicles, why are they not allowed to run on roads like other motor vehicles? Obviously the law is not adequately updated to keep up with the advancement of technology.
In the meantime, unless and until someone being charged with riding an electric mobility device brings the case to the Court and obtain a definitive judgment, anyone riding an electric mobility device is taking the risk of committing the offence of driving an unregistered and licensed vehicle.