Britain's first e-scooter cities trialing new rental scheme

Britain’s e-scooter cities: Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Tees Valley towns will be first to trial rental scheme for electric two-wheelers that could revolutionise commuting

  • Department for Transport made e-scooters legal on Britain’s roads last month 
  • It is looking for local authorities to sign up to a twelve month rental trial scheme
  • Around 50 local authorities are thought to be interested in the government pilot 
  • Charities for road safety and for blind people have warned of ‘danger and chaos’ 

Dozens of local authorities are eyeing up a government scheme to rent out e-scooters – with Cambridge, Milton Keynes and towns in the Tees Valley set to be first. 

The Department for Transport launched a new 12 month scheme at the start of July which would make it legal to ride e-scooters on roads – they would, however, need to be rented and would be capped at 15.5mph

Around 50 local authorities are reportedly looking at the scheme, according to FleetNews, but there are concerns over the safety of the vehicles, which have already been involved in fatal accidents.

Last year YouTube star Emily Hartridge, who was en route to a fertility clinic scan, became the first person to die in an e-scooter accident when she was killed in a crash in Battersea, south west London.

E-scooters could soon be part and parcel of towns and cities across Britain, with the likes of Middlesborough, Hartlepool and Milton Keynes all signing up to a government trial to legalise them on the country’s roads

Tees Valley Combined Authorities, which covers Middlesborough, Hartlepool and Darlington, is thought to be the first local authority to host the DfT’s e-scooter rental trial, which will last for 12 months.

It plans to deploy 100 e-scooters through rental company Ginger, which will be responsible for charging them. Hire costs in the towns will be £2 per 20 minutes. 

Where can I ride an e-scooter? It’s okay on the roads… but not on the pavements 

Riding rental e-scooters on the roads and cycle paths became legal on July 4. 

However, riding these scooters on pavements will remain illegal and will only be allowed in pre-approved locations where the hiring scheme is taking place. 

It will still be illegal to ride privately-owned electric scooters on the pavement, roads and cycle paths.

You can only ride your own e-scooter on private land, with permission from the person who owns the land. 

You must have a driving licence or a provisional driving licence and be at least 16 years old to hire an electric scooter. 

They will be limited to a maximum speed of 15.5mph and it’s recommended that riders wear a helmet, though it isn’t mandatory.  

Privately-owned e-scooters cannot be legally ridden on the roads because they don’t always have visible rear red lights, number plates or signally ability. 

They are treated the same as motor vehicles because they are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs). 

This means they are subject to the same legal requirements as other motor vehicles and must therefore have MOT, tax, licensing and specific construction.   

Milton Keynes Council is planning to have 250 of the two-wheeled vehicles on its roads, working together with Lime.

Cambridge and Peterborough are thought to have tendered to take part in the trial, as well as the West Midlands Combined Authority, according to FleetNews.

Announcing the trial, Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: ‘As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way, which could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities across Great Britain.

‘E-scooters may offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing.

‘The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.’ 

Riding rental e-scooters on the roads and cycle paths became legal on July 4. 

However, riding these scooters on pavements will remain illegal and will only be allowed in pre-approved locations where the hiring scheme is taking place. 

It will still be illegal to ride privately-owned electric scooters on the pavement, roads and cycle paths.

You can only ride your own e-scooter on private land, with permission from the person who owns the land. 

You must have a driving licence or a provisional driving licence and be at least 16 years old to hire an electric scooter. 

Road safety groups and charities advocating for protection of people with sensory difficulties have raised serious objections to the legalisation of e-scooters.

Andrew Hodgson, president of the National Federation for the Blind, said in June: ‘After learning about the accidents e-scooters have caused, it is very clear to me they are not fit for purpose.

YouTube star and TV presenter Emily Hartridge, 34, became the first person in the UK to die in an e-scooter accident when she was struck by a lorry in Battersea last July

YouTube star Emily Hartridge was en route to a fertility clinic scan last July when she was killed in a crash on her e-scooter. Pictured is the presenter showing her joy as she is presented with the scooter

‘Riders appear to fall from them very easily, causing serious head injuries along with many broken bones.

‘It is also clear from practical experience, dockless e-scooters simply do not work as the machines can end up anywhere in the city.

‘This causes totally random potential barriers to access across city pavement and public space for disabled and elderly people and mothers with buggies.

An estimated 200,000 e scooters have already been bought in the UK, according to a report shared by MailOnline in July.

With lockdown slowing how many people could get around, a survey has claimed up to one in seven UK adults are planning to buy an e-bike or e-scooter this year.

Advice to avoid public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic left many with little choice but to travel to work by foot or by bike.

But for those with less experience, an e-scooter has become a viable option.

The pandemic is part of the reason’s for the government decision to run its trial scheme. 

Guidance on the government’s website reads: ‘In response to the COVID-19 pandemic we are delivering a green restart of local transport. To support this and to help mitigate reduced public transport capacity e-scooter trials will be brought forward.’

‘At a time of social distancing when urgency has been placed by the Government on active travel, it is critical that all spare public space on the highway is protected for walking and cycling.

‘E-scooters will only take people away from active travel and those embracing walking and cycling will be faced with danger and chaos if e-scooters are legalised in the UK.’ 

There were 32 collisions involving e-scooters in 2019, including Emily Hartridge, who was the only fatality.

YouTube star and TV presenter Ms Hartridge became the first person in the UK to be killed while riding an e-scooter when she was struck by a lorry in Battersea, south London, in July last year.

The grieving boyfriend of Ms Hartridge later revealed his partner was en route to a fertility clinic scan when she was killed in a crash on the e-scooter he had given her as a birthday present.

Jacob Hazell said he and the 35-year-old presenter – who he described as the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’ – were overcome with excitement as they planned for a baby. 

But in a heart wrenching interview, he recalled his creeping sense of dread when the clinic said Ms Hartridge had failed to turn up to the appointment. 

And he revealed his anxiety then turned into devastation after stumbling across the news that his girlfriend had died in a collision with a lorry in Battersea on Friday 12 July last year.

At the start of the year, Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said: ‘Electric scooters are simply not safe enough to be on our roads alongside full size vehicles.

‘Mixing with pedestrians is also potentially very unsafe in shared areas. As with cycling, the answer probably lies in dedicated safe infrastructure for vulnerable road users.’

European e-scooter giant Tier Mobility UK’s Fred Jones told FleetNews the vehicles were created with safety in mind, coming with an integrated helmet and wider foot plates.  

He added: ‘You’ve also got to work with local authorities and vulnerable groups, who have valid concerns about street clutter.

‘It’s why we’ve equally invested in the tools and solutions that we can give to local authorities, to help manage the deployment of the fleet and how it’s operated on the streets.’ 

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