Micromobility in the UK
Last Thursday, Centre for London, the think tank dedicated to tackling issues facing the capital, published a new report in which it called on Government to legalise private and shared e-scooters, also outlining measures that can be taken to ensure their safe use, affordability, and accessibility.
While the report speaks for London, and e-scooters have certainly become ubiquitous there (as of July, police had seized more than 2,300 illegal e-scooters in London), their encroachment is not limited to the capital. Other urban centres have equally struggled to tackle the explosion in micromobility over the past year, with over four million trips made on shared e-scooters in the first 11 months of UK trials and the number of eBikes sold in the UK up by 70 per cent between 2019 and 2020.
Indeed, even though there has been a crackdown, the situation is almost already beyond Government’s control given how many e-scooters are currently being illegally ridden on British roads - it's now a matter of making the most of the opportunities presented by these vehicles while reducing their risks.
The report, dubbed Micromobility in London, had two significant observations. The first being that two thirds of car trips in London could be made in 20 minutes or less using micromobility vehicles, with most of these trips taking place in outer London where there are fewer public transport options. The second being that micromobility vehicles emit up to 90 per cent fewer carbon emissions than private cars, and do not produce harmful pollutants at the point of use.
As e-scooters and eBikes could help to reduce car use, cut carbon emissions, and improve air quality in the capital, the report suggests that private ownership and safe ridership of e-scooters should be legalised on British roads, and that more shared e-scooter and eBike schemes should be implemented.
The report also recommends the removal of inconsistencies in current policy for riding and parking e-scooters and eBikes. For example, stopping e-scooters at local authority boundaries may discourage people from using them – the suggested solution being that responsibility for the whole system is given over to Transport for London, which would then manage shared schemes across the city between local authorities and private operators. The expansion of these schemes would also help those currently living in areas with low public transports accessibility levels. The report additionally calls for further tax incentives and loans, building on the Cycle to Work scheme.
The other side of this of course is removing the dangers that e-scooters currently pose, with the report making clear that operators have a responsibility to make e-scooter and eBike use safe for riders and pedestrians alike. This includes using rewards to encourage safe riding, delivering micromobility training to new riders and giving the police the ability to enforce bans where unsafe riding persists. The report also recommends that all vehicles must meet minimum safety standards both at the point of sale and while being ridden, such as a maximum permitted speed and having lights to ensure they can be ridden safely alongside bicycles.
As Josh Cottell, Research Manager for the report, has stated “legalising private ownership and riding is the first step towards building a gold standard for micromobility in the UK," with the potential environmental, social and public health benefits of this move paying dividends in the Government's push for a better Britain.