New regulations enabling trials of rental e-scooters are to kick in from Saturday 4 July, fast-tracking plans to see how they could cut both congestion and emissions.
The move was announced by Transport Minister Rachel Maclean, with the first trials of rental e-scooters expected to begin the following week and lasting 12 months.
The announcement follows weeks of reports that the Government would fast-track trials following its announcement in March 2019 of a review into low-carbon mobility options, including e-scooters and e-cargo bike trailers. The Department for Transport is already running a consultation on micromobility vehicles as it explores how new transport modes – including electric scooters – could revolutionise urban mobility.
The UK is the last major European economy where e-scooters are banned everywhere except on private land (with the landowner’s permission). Speaking last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that road space needs reprioritising away from cars, with the pandemic having accelerated trends towards more active travel. However, there have been concerns over the use of e-scooters from road safety organisations, in particular after YouTube star Emily Hartridge was killed in the UK last year when her e-scooter collided with a lorry. The Transport Committee is also running an inquiry on their safety.
Under the DfT move, local authorities and devolved administrations can allow or run the rental schemes in their areas. Only rental schemes will be permitted and the e-scooters will only be allowed on roads, not pavements, and will be limited to 15.5mph while riders will be recommended to wear helmets.
Users will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence to take part in the trials, and must be 16 or over.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “E-scooters may offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing. The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.”
Speaking a month ago, IAM RoadSmart said plans to fast-track e-scooter trials were a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to make positive changes to transport infrastructure as we emerge from the current crisis. Results from a survey into attitudes towards e-scooters, carried out by the independent road safety charity, highlighted a growing acceptance of e-scooters as a mode of transport.
While IAM RoadSmart said there were still important road safety questions to be answered, two-thirds of those who responded were supportive of e-scooters’ wider use, despite the limited experience people have of using them.