Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, has announced that plans to evaluate electric scooters in the UK will move forward from next year, to next month, while the scheme is also expanded from the original four future transport regions, to all regions of the country.
That could lead to the legalisation of e-scooter rental schemes from the likes of Bolt and Bird, while also funding a boom in e-scooter ownership. A Department for Transport update said that the change in the evaluation has the “potential to see rental vehicles on UK roads as early as June.”
The announcement was made during the Downing Street briefing on 9 May 2020, as the Transport Secretary looked to address changes to the UK’s transit structure. With quieter roads, public transport use at an all-time low and increased numbers taking the opportunity of coronavirus lockdown to get out and cycle and walk, the Government is keen to keep people green, out of cars and widen transport options for the eventual return to work.
The new plans may see electric scooters getting the approval they have been waiting for, alongside a government push to create safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians. Electric scooters currently fall into a legal grey area – they aren’t road legal and they aren’t legal on pavements either, so can technically only be used on private land.
The Government previously outlined that the evaluation of e-scooters will likely consider a minimum age for use, safety standards for electric scooters as well as insurance requirements for their use, while also looking at things like parking restrictions for rental schemes. All these measures come from the experience of e-scooters in other countries, where accidents and the dumping of scooters all over the pavements have been a problem for authorities.
Given the current situation, the e-scooter revolution is likely to be fuelled by private ownership, as many potential users are unlikely to want to use something that’s communal, for to hygiene reasons.
“The West Midlands is proud to be leading the way on future transport development, and I am pleased the government has put its faith in us again with this new and innovative trial of e-scooters … We will also use the trial to look at the current transport challenges the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with and explore how e-scooters could be used to help tackle them,” said Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands.
The shake-up of the UK’s travel options will also see a boost for walking and cycling – with an updated investment strategy to be presented in summer 2020 – and an additional £10 million going into 7,200 electric car charging points.