Smart Transport

Legalise e-scooters to reduce car use, says think tank

Row of three e-scooters

The Government should legalise private and shared e-scooters and give Transport for London (TfL) the power to manage shared schemes, says think tank Centre for London.

Trials of rental e-scooters are currently taking place across 32 areas in England, including London, and the Government is not expected to make a decision on whether or not to permit the use of privately-owned e-scooters on public roads until after the trials complete next year.

However, in its new report Micromobility in London, Centre for London calls on the Government to make the most of the opportunities presented by these vehicles to help reduce car use, cut carbon emissions, and improve air quality in the capital.

Its research suggests that micromobility vehicles emit between 34% and 90% (shared e-scooter vs private bike) fewer carbon emissions than private cars, and do not produce harmful pollutants at the point of use.

It estimates that two thirds of car trips in London could be made by micromobility vehicles in 20 minutes or less, with most of these trips taking place in outer London where there are fewer public transport options.

The authors highlight the need to streamline the experience of riding and parking e-scooters and e-bikes. They argue that inconsistencies in provision, such as stopping shared e-scooters at local authority boundaries could prevent people from using them, particularly new users or those on low incomes who may rely on a shared vehicle.

To mitigate this, the Government should give TfL the power to manage shared schemes across the city, in collaboration with local authorities and operators, Centre for London says. 

Given the safety concerns about e-scooters following a number of fatalities and serious injuries, the report also makes clear that operators have a responsibility to make e-scooter and e-bike use safe for riders and pedestrians.

This includes using penalties and rewards such as price incentives to encourage safe riding and parking, as well as working with local authorities to deliver micromobility training to new riders.

The report 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. Police should be able to enforce bans where unsafe riding persists.

The report also argues that legalisation must go hand-in-hand with policies to make micromobility accessible to all, particularly for the third of Londoners who live in areas with the lowest public transport accessibility levels.

It calls on operators of shared schemes to be required to provide access in less populated areas, particularly outer London. 

TfL should also work with local authorities and operators to encourage take up of these vehicles by those least likely to consider using them, including women and older Londoners, the think tank says. 

The report notes that high upfront costs of e-bikes and e-scooters are a significant barrier to people living on low incomes – disproportionately Black and Asian Londoners, women, and young Londoners – from buying these vehicles and benefiting from any resulting cost savings of using them instead of a car. 

The report recommends that the Government offers tax incentives and loans to anyone wanting to buy a micromobility vehicle, building on the Cycle to Work scheme.

Josh Cottell, research manager, Centre for London said: “E-scooter and e-bike use are on the rise, with more than four million trips made on shared e-scooters in the first 11 months of UK trials while the number of e-bikes sold in the UK increased by 70%  between 2019 and 2020.

“The shift to these emerging vehicles is already happening but we need the Government to catch up and introduce policies which encourage safe ridership of e-scooters and e-bikes on our streets and ensures anyone who wants to use these vehicles is able to do so.

“Legalising private ownership and riding is the first step towards building a gold standard for micromobility in the UK, with Transport for London – and other equivalent authorities in towns and cities across the country given the powers to arrange shared schemes for micromobility vehicles as they emerge.”

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, said: “We recognise the opportunities presented by micromobility and through our e-scooter trial and ongoing work, we are looking at both the long-term role they could play in a green and sustainable future for the capital, as well as the role they can play in avoiding a car-led recovery from the pandemic.

“The trial will allow us to collect data that will further help to shape UK and London policy in micromobility.

“Safety remains our top priority and we will continue to closely monitor e-scooters in trial areas, making improvements wherever identified.”

Experts to debate use of e-scooters at Smart Transport Conference 

Helen Sharp, e-scooter trial lead at TfL, will be sharing the capital's experience of e-scooters and the lessons being learnt from its trial during a breakout session titled 'E-scooters: a micromobility solution?' at the Smart Transport Conference in London on November 30.

Paul Hodgins, CEO and co-founder of Smart Transport member and shared micromobility provider Ginger, will give an operator's perspective during the session.

Ginger launched the UK’s first pilot scheme with Tees Valley Combined Authority last year and is involved in a number of other trials in which it has introduced controls to overcome safety concerns. 

David G Davies, executive director and Margaret Winchcomb, senior research and policy officer at Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) will also be speaking during the session on PACTS' research on the use of private e-scooters. 

All four speakers will take part in a panel debate, giving the audience the chance to put their questions to them. 

To find out more or register for the conference, visit conference.smarttransport.org.uk

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  • Edward Handkey - 24/09/2021 07:20

    Why do these think tanks come up with these opinions before the results of a detailed trial are known? They are just guessing. There is nothing an e-scooter does that a bicycle does not do better, and safer. Micro mobility in the form of e- scooters will not significantly reduce car use. They will cause modal shift, but it will be from walking and cycling to scooters, not from cars to scooters.

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