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Electric Micromobility Insight: UK electric scooter trials - 02/09/20

September 2nd 2020

The last week has seen the announcement of several more electric scooter trials. Milton Keynes is the second region to launch a scheme, after Teesside a couple of weeks ago, with Northamptonshire, Cambridge and Norfolk set to go live with their own trials as well. It’s great news for e-scooters!

Several more trials are in the pipeline, awaiting government approval. In these areas it will become temporarily legal to ride e-scooters on public roads, however they will still be subject to some important restrictions.

Only on-street rental e-scooters will be covered by the legal exemption; riding a privately-owned e-scooter will remain only allowed on private land with the owner’s consent. Trial e-scooters are not allowed on pavements, only on roads and cycle paths (we think this is very sensible; on the pavement they pose too much risk to pedestrians).

Where’s the London e-scooter trial?

The big trial we’re waiting for the government to approve and launch is in London. However, there are rumours of difficulties between Transport for London and the various local boroughs in agreeing on how the trial should be set up, and as a result, it looks like this one could be delayed.

It’s great the government is running the trials, but we think that they need to move things along faster. Presently they haven’t even confirmed whether they’re going to make e-scooters legal at the end of the trials, which would be a good start.

We’re particularly concerned about how the next couple of months will play out. Many people seem reluctant to go back to public transport; use of buses and trains is well below pre-lockdown levels.

Are we quickly heading for unprecedented gridlock?

Over the coming week, millions of children will go back to school, and millions of furloughed workers are set to resume their employment. In all, nearly 20 million people could be resuming their pre-lockdown journeys. There’s a risk many people will choose to drive, understandably and sometimes necessarily avoiding public transport, but this could easily lead to traffic gridlock.

The graph shows how transport use has ebbed and flowed over the past six months. You can see from this that car and lorry use is already back to roughly what it was pre-lockdown, with public transport use still at much lower levels. If those people all now jump into their cars too, the welcome quieter traffic and reduced congestion levels will be a thing of the past, and the improved air quality seen across the country will be undone.

Let’s pick up the speed

With the huge gap left by public transport, one potentially game-changing intervention is to have more e-scooter trials start across the country, and quickly, to take up the slack. Alongside this, continued promotion about the benefits of cycling has a huge role to play in keep our country moving healthily at this pivotal time.

E-scooter trials are due to last until next July, which we believe is far too long. By this time, legislative powers will have more than enough evidence that proves the utility and effectiveness of e-scooters well before then.

Could the UK Government start drawing up the legislation now to make e-scooters legal across the whole country within the next few months? We’d love to know what you think, so let us know your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn!

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