The Legalising of Rental E-Scooters

22 Jul 20

We are experiencing a transport revolution. City dwellers are shunning public transport in favour of travel methods that increase social distancing, presenting an opportunity for electric mobility devices.

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We are experiencing a transport revolution. City dwellers are shunning public transport in favour of travel methods that increase social distancing, presenting an opportunity for electric mobility devices.

E-scooters should be one obvious winner. Lime, the leading electric scooter and bike app, is currently reporting that its app has been opened 180,000 times in the last month. Likewise, Swedish operator, Voi, has reported 100,000 downloads of its app in response to news that the e-scooter was soon to hit our streets. Usage reports from mainland Europe are also showing that trip durations have almost doubled since pre-Covid. The average user is now travelling 18 minutes on average by e-scooter, and trips in Europe are 25% longer than the United States.

As of 4th July, e-scooters hire trials are now legal and riders must have at least a provisional or moped licence, the top speed is 15.5mph and their use on pavements is banned. Motor vehicle insurance is also required, provided via the hire firm. Parking is also a contentious issue with many reporting inconsiderate parking. That said, data from Paris shows that 97% of users are now parking in official parking areas, compared with 83% in February 2020.

In cities, such as London, the Congestion Charge is now operational seven days a week and has been ramped up to £15 per car. Surely this must draw us towards using e-scooters. However, whilst previous data on usage trends is limited, it points towards e-scooter usage being seasonal.

Meanwhile, in rural areas, the ability to join the green vehicle revolution is more challenging. Obvious hurdles include longer distances; roads that lack street lighting, roads that are prone to more potholes and an increased lack of 4G coverage which some rental providers use to track their assets.

Personally, I feel the 12 month e-scooter trial is somewhat missing the opportunity to cash in on the increased propensity towards sustainable travel, whilst questioning the results with such a restricted sample size. With legislation more closely conforming to the requirements to drive a moped/motorbike rather than ride a bicycle/electric bike, due to the need for a driving licence and insurance, many of my colleagues working in cities who would have taken up the scheme, simply won’t be eligible. I personally believe the e-scooter would have been incredibly popular with students, but for those under 16 years of age it won’t be an option for the foreseeable future, despite being able to purchase them today in Halfords?

As such, those of us with our own e-scooter or looking to purchase one, will have to wait at least another year before we are allowed out to play.