Electric scooter hire schemes are coming to UK cities - but are they a good idea?

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 11:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 11:34 am
Currently use of e-scooters is only permitted on private land (Photo: Shutterstock)
Currently use of e-scooters is only permitted on private land (Photo: Shutterstock)

Previously banned everywhere except on private land, American-made electric scooters have been approved for use on Britain's streets.

The Transport Committee of MPs had previously suggested making so-called 'e-scooters' legal on roads - but not pavements - as a green method of transport.

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They argue that scooters, which travel at a speed of between nine and 15mph, could encourage less frequent car use, but say that trials will be needed to monitor the number and type of collisions that take place.

The approved American-designed e-scooters use sensors to automatically stop scooters when entering prohibited zones like shopping centres and footpaths.

Trials already in place

Some areas in England - including Milton Keynes Borough, Northamptonshire, The Tees Valley and the West Midlands - have already tested e-scooters on a trial basis - but the models previously used have caused some issues.

A trial in Coventry, for instance, was paused after just five days due to concerns about the scooters being abandoned on streets and pedestrian safety.

It is hoped that the new scooters, which shut off power in seconds if a scooter enters the pavement, will fix some of the early issues with e-scooter use.

The Transport Committee had several other recommendations for the rolling-out of e-scooters, including encouraging users to wear helmets and allowing local authorities to decide speed limits for scooters.

The Department for Transport was advised that it may have to monitor the environmental impact of scooters, with "valid environmental concerns" about how scooter batteries will be recharged.

The next big thing?

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said e-scooters could "transform how many of us get around", adding, however, that "the path to introducing them safely is fraught with difficulties."

He called for effective education and regulation for riders to make sure "limited road space" could be shared safely by all road users - including cyclists and cars.

Committee chair Huw Merriman said, "E-scooters have the potential to become an exciting and ingenious way to navigate our streets and get from place to place.

"If this gets people out of the car, reducing congestion and exercising in the open air, then even better."

He added, "We need to ensure that their arrival on our streets doesn't make life more difficult for pedestrians, and especially disabled people."

A Department for Transport spokesperson said, "We welcome the outcome of the committee's report today and believe that e-scooters can offer an affordable, reliable and sustainable way to travel.

"Safety will always be our top priority and our current trials are allowing us to better understand the benefits of e-scooters and their impact on public space, helping us to design future regulations."