Transport Secretary fast-tracks e-scooter trials

Department for Transport says e-scooter rental schemes could help cut car journeys and relieve pressure on public transport in post-lockdown Britain

Trials of e-scooters are to be fast-tracked in order to get rental schemes up and running in urban areas as soon as possible, the Secretary of State for Transport has announced.

The e-scooter trials, which were supposed to take place next year following a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation, will instead be brought forward to next month, and extended to every region that wants them, rather than being limited to just four local authorities.

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In a statement, the Transport Secretary said that “one of the few positive benefits” of the coronavirus crisis was “drastically better air quality”, adding that the Government wants to “preserve this as much as possible”.

Shapps said that getting e-scooter rental schemes up and running in UK cities as fast as possible would help reduce the number of short car journeys being taken, while also relieving pressure on bus services. The trials are intended to allow the DfT to assess the safety and benefits of e-scooters, as well as their impact on public places.

The DfT and the Transport Committee are already holding consultations into the use of e-scooters, which at present can be legally purchased in the UK but are banned from public roads, cycle lanes and pavements, effectively restricting their use to private land.

In contrast, the use of e-scooters on public roads is legal in most European countries, with users often renting them via various smartphone applications rather than buying them.

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It has previously been suggested that e-scooters would be restricted to 15.5mph before being allowed on UK roads – the fastest e-scooters on the market have a top speed of around 40mph – and that riders may also be required to wear a helmet.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, commented: “While drivers are lukewarm about the idea of having e-scooters on roads, they also often tell us they would like to have cheap, reliable alternative forms of transport, so the Government is right to look at different ways for us to get around in congested cities.

“E-scooters could provide that alternative for short trips, though their safe use must always be the number-one priority. For example, it makes sense that these devices have safety features like reflectors and speed limiters fitted, and that options such as insurance and training are carefully looked at to see if they can bring additional safety benefits. The Department for Transport might also need to look at changes to the Highway Code to accommodate new forms of road transport.”

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