To some they are a menace, to others they offer an environmentally-friendly way of moving around cities at a time when congestion and pollution are on the increase.

What is an e-scooter?

It’s a scooter powered by an electric motor. The idea is you stand on the thing and instead of pumping with either your left or right leg as was once the case you are instead propelled at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour by the magic of a rechargeable battery. It is operated by a hand throttle which controls how much power goes from it to the motor in the wheels. These are small and hard and there are normally only two of them, though some scooters have three. E-scooters often have lights fore and aft, and any jargon nerds reading will be pleased to learn that the stem is connected to the folding latch which is connected to the deck, which is the thing you stand on. Just like with a skateboard. Or a ship. E-scooters have been around in some form since the early 2010s.

Any famous users?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took to an e-scooter while campaigning in Troon in May in support of SNP candidate Siobhian Brown. Ms Brown was duly elected MSP for Ayr so the sight of the FM performing rad jumps and pulling wheelies along the seafront on a Sunday afternoon didn’t much concern the voters.

The future of commuting?

Maybe. ScooTours, founded by the delightfully-named Charles Purdue-Pulido, have just started offering e-scooter tours of London and there are ride-sharing companies and ride-sharing schemes operating in dozens of cities around the world. One of the leading providers is Lime, a San Francisco-based company specialising in rental scooters which are ‘dockless’ – they can be picked up and dropped off anywhere.

And the maybe not?

There is one slight problem: the UK is the only European country where e-scooters are technically illegal except on private land and even then only with the consent of the owner. Exceptions are made for trial schemes and in those areas e-scooters are legal on roads and in cycle lanes, but not on pavements. Users also have to be over the age of 16 and hold a driving licence. Two years ago the UK registered its first fatality involving an e-scooter and another was reported last month. Meanwhile police forces across the UK are having a summer crackdown on e-scooter users in public places – they have branded them “a death trap” – and there have been reports of e-scooters being used in robberies. Check social media and you won’t have to look long before you find footage posted by irate pedestrians of e-scooters being ridden at speed on pavements.