Trials of electric scooter rental schemes are set to begin in the UK next week, after the government “fast-tracked” the idea. The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed new regulations have been introduced, giving local authorities the chance to begin trialling the rental schemes.
The schemes are being trialled to find out whether they can reduce traffic in city centres – particularly after the coronavirus crisis saw the public urged to steer clear of public transport. The government also wants to “understand” the impacts of scooter rental schemes on safety, and test their green credentials.
Lasting 12 months, the rental scheme trials will be monitored by the government, allowing it to assess the benefits of the ‘e-scooters’, while members of the public also get their chance to try them out. The schemes will involve “leading companies” in the industry working “closely” with local authorities to create a plan for the controlled introduction of e-scooters in cities, towns and even rural areas.
Unlike children’s scooters, the devices used in these trials will be more high-tech, heavier items, with electric motors driving the wheels - broadly similar to the one pictured below. They will be limited to 15.5 mph, and will be banned from pavements, but riders will be allowed to use them on roads, cycle lanes and tracks.
Anyone renting a scooter will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence to take part in the trials, and must be 16 or over. Helmets will not be mandatory, but the DfT recommends riders wear one.
Furthermore, the new legislation is limited to rental scooters, with privately-owned examples still banned from British streets. According to the government, that move is intended to “avoid a flood of poor-quality scooters onto the streets”.
Rachel Maclean, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport and Conservative MP for Redditch, in the West Midlands, said the government was taking the opportunity to rebuild transport in a more environmentally friendly way.
“As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way that could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities across Great Britain,” she 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.”