A year ago e-scooters were illegal in the UK. But, due to the need to provide alternatives to public transport in the era of coronavirus, trials of such vehicles were brought forward and officially allowed from July 4, 2020. Since then many schemes have sprung up around the UK, but none have been announced in London – until now.
Transport for London (TfL) has revealed that that three operators – Dott, Lime and Tier – have been selected to operate rental e-scooter trials in the capital for up to 12 months. The scooters will be available for rent in a core group of London’s boroughs, Canary Wharf and the City of London from Monday June 7, 2021.
Operators will work together with TfL, London Councils and participating boroughs and are required to meet the rigorous safety, parking and operating standards.
Safety will be at the core of the trial throughout, and data shared by the operators will play a vital role in helping to shape London and the UK’s future policy on e-scooters, including whether they could form part of London’s sustainable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The safety standards required will go further than those set out at a national level, by requiring:
• A lower maximum speed of 12.5mph
• Lights at the front and the rear of the vehicles that are always on throughout any rental;
• Audible warning systems that can be used without adjusting the rider’s grip of the handlebar.
• The operators will also have other safety mechanisms in place, including ‘first ride policies’ where riders will need to take an e-learning safety course before they hire for the first time.
The rental e-scooters will only be allowed to be used on roads and in cycleways – not on footways. All operators will also be obliged to ensure that their rental prices take into account the needs of people on lower incomes and to offer discounts to certain groups where appropriate, including key workers playing a vital role in helping London get through the pandemic.
A core group of London boroughs, Canary Wharf and the City of London will be participating in the trial fully by providing parking, with further boroughs acting as ‘ride-through’ areas, which users may travel through but not start or end e-scooter rides. Between 60 and 150 e-scooters will be available to rent in each fully participating borough initially, with riders able to move freely across these boroughs and ‘ride-through’ areas. Operators that demonstrate strong performance and compliance may be able to increase the number of e-scooters in their fleet over the course of the trial, while those that do not may be required to reduce their numbers.
Boroughs, Canary Wharf and the City of London will control parking locations for e-scooters, providing marked designated bays to protect against street clutter and ensure footways are kept free. Geo-fencing technology will be a requirement for every rental e-scooter. This system is intended to ensure that e-scooters are not parked outside of these designated spaces as the hiring of a rental e-scooter can only be ended once parked in a designated bay. There will also be mandatory response times for the operators in cases where vehicles have been improperly parked, are damaged or are causing an obstruction. Boroughs will also be able to specify ‘go-slow’ areas where the speed of e-scooters will be automatically limited to 8mph.
TfL, London Councils, the participating areas and the selected operators will continue to work together over the coming weeks to prepare for the start of the trial, ensuring that London’s streets are ready and engaging with local communities. The organisations involved in the trial will be carrying out education and awareness outreach to ensure that Londoners are prepared for the new trial.
The use of privately owned e-scooters on public roads is not covered by the trial and remains illegal in the UK, as does riding any e-scooter, rental or private, on footways. The Metropolitan Police will continue their work engaging with e-scooter riders, and where necessary, will enforce the legislation regarding the use of privately owned e-scooters on the highway.
“We want to ensure a green, sustainable recovery from coronavirus, and e-scooters are an alternative to cars that could help with this,” says Will Norman, London’s walking & cycling commissioner. “The safety of those using e-scooters, as well as other road users and pedestrians, is absolutely paramount, so it’s important that they are trialled in this rigorous way to ensure high standards. We look forward to exploring the role that e-scooters could play in London’s future.”
“This is a hugely proud moment for Tier,” says Lawrence Leuschner, CEO and co-founder of Tier Mobility. “We cannot wait to start working with London, a city famed for transport innovation, from constructing the first underground railway to building the world’s first international airport.”