Guidance issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) in summer 2020 now allows local authorities in the UK to trial e-scooters as part of a rental scheme. The use of privately owned e-scooters on public roads is not covered by these changes and remains illegal in the UK.
The trials are part of a wider approach across TfL, London boroughs and national government to enable people to use greener forms of transport and help avoid a damaging, car-led recovery from coronavirus, which would make air quality worse and increase congestion.
Working together, TfL, London Councils and the boroughs will co-ordinate a trial in the capital, promoting safe and consistent standards across a defined, geographically limited trial area on London’s streets. Around one-third of London’s boroughs have expressed their intention to join the trial initially, with more considering joining at a later stage.
Operators taking part in the selection process will be assessed on their ability to meet strict safety requirements and high operating standards. Operators will also be required to provide critical data for TfL and the boroughs to understand the impact of e-scooters on London’s transport goals, including Vision Zero, a shift to walking, cycling and public transport, zero-emission targets and other aspects of the Mayor’s Healthy Streets approach. This data will be shared with the DfT as it looks to bring in new legislation in this field.
Boroughs will have to control parking locations for e-scooters to protect against street clutter and will be able to designate certain areas as ‘no-go areas’ – where e-scooters cannot be ridden and will automatically come to a safe stop – or as ‘go-slow areas’, where the speed of the e-scooter will be automatically limited to 8mph. Like all other vehicles, e-scooters will be banned from riding on pavements but will be able to use the same space as bicycles.
The total number of e-scooters involved in the trial has not yet been determined, but TfL and the boroughs expect to start cautiously with between 60 to 150 e-scooters per participating borough, with e-scooters able to move freely across the trial area.
Says Michael Hurwitz, TfL’s Director of Transport Innovation:
“We’re determined to make sure that London recovers from coronavirus as safely and sustainably as possible and are supportive of innovative solutions that could help.
“Safety will be our number one priority during this e-scooter rental trial, which will be critical to providing the data and insights we need to determine whether e-scooters are a viable part of a greener and healthier future for London. We’ll continue to take the interests of all Londoners into account as we work towards starting the trial next year.’
Adds Fred Jones, UK General Manager of TIER:
“Today’s announcement is exciting and TIER is applying to participate in the London trial, which we believe can bring huge benefits to the city.
“The environmental impact of switching from cars to e-scooters for short journeys is staggering. TIER research has found that e-scooters could replace 1.2million car trips in the capital every single day, resulting in a 233-tonne reduction in daily CO2 emissions.
“With our COVID-safe helmets on every trip and an energy network that will generate millions for local stores and cafes, climate-neutral TIER is well-placed to be London’s safe, sustainable partner in the capital’s economic recovery. We very much hope to work with the city on this scheme.”
Shared transport charity CoMoUK, whose membership includes e-scooter operators and which works closely with authorities, has also welcomed the announcement. Says Richard Dilks, chief executive of CoMoUK:
“It is hugely welcome that there is to be a major e-scooter trial in London. Early data from the existing trials elsewhere in England shows very strong levels of use, and it is vitally important that London is part of the UK’s learnings from these trials as we work towards a green recovery.”
Finally Duncan Robertson, Dott UK’s General Manager, says:
“We welcome the news that TfL is working on plans with London Councils and boroughs for a trial of rental e-scooters in the capital. We’re also very supportive of the high bar for safety and scooter quality set by TfL today.
“Data from several European cities where e-scooters are part of the mobility infrastructure clearly demonstrate how vital they can be in supporting public transport, cutting the number of car journeys and contributing to improved air quality.”
As well as working on plans for an e-scooter rental trial, TfL and the boroughs continue to work on hundreds of Streetspace schemes across the capital, which are enabling people to walk and cycle more often. In addition to the almost 90km of new or upgraded temporary cycle infrastructure either complete or under construction, more than 22,500 square metres of extra pavement space has also been created to allow people to maintain social distancing whilst walking.
TfL and the boroughs have also installed 1,540 extra cycle parking spaces across London, focused around busy areas like high streets and transport hubs. More details on how e-scooter operators can apply for the trial are here: Electric Scooter (E-Scooter) Rental Trial in London