Scoot Brittania: UK unveils world’s largest scooter programme

9 September 2020

All the latest on micromobility in the UK and across Europe.

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Epic micromobility news this week as Voi reveals plans to field 10,000 e-scooters across seven towns and cities in the West Midlands. It is the largest single-operator contract in the world.

1: Charge of the light brigade

What: The West Midlands is gearing up to host the world’s most extensive single-operator e-scooter programme. Voi will provide up to 10,000 scooters across seven towns and cities in the region; deployment begins tomorrow, in Birmingham and Coventry.

Why it matters: This is a proper trial. No messing around. To seriously challenge the totalitarian regime of the motor car, the resistance needs teeth. Providing a handful of e-scooters won’t cut it. Ten thousand – well, that’s an army. There is also safety in numbers: more e-scooters means greater awareness from all road users of this new low-carbon travel option. Paris may have more scooters, but they’re split between three operators at 5,000 each. Washington DC may have the same total number but that’s split between four companies. Mayor Andy Street and the West Mids authority have thrown down the gauntlet, not just to the rest of the UK but to the rest of the world.  RR

2: Northamptonshire trial goes live

What: Northampton got its first e-scooters this week. Some 200 rolled out on the first day, mostly in the central and northern parts of the town (news reports claimed 300 but we counted 200 on the day). More will be made available shortly in nearby Kettering. While they are dockless, a 20p discount is available to riders who park up at one of Voi’s designated hubs.

Why it matters: The Swedish micromobility operator has pulled off a coup when it comes to UK e-scooter trials. Of the six towns thus far live, Voi has bagged two of them, with Cambridge and the massive West Midlands schemes yet to come. With its beautifully-design in-app map and thousands of sturdy salmon-coloured machines, Voi is leading the way. Will its competitors catch up?  RR

3: Helbiz approved

What: American-Italian micromobility operator Helbiz has won DfT approval for its electric scooter, meaning the company can now bid confidently for UK trials.

Why it matters: The Heliz scooter is made by Segway-Ninebot, as is the model used by Ginger that is already in service in the UK. Safety approval by the DfT was not in doubt, then, but having another reputable operator with experience in major European and US cities interested shows just how valuable the industry views the UK market.  RR

4: Neuron partners with RoSPA

What: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is working with e-scooter operator Neuron Mobility to drive up safety for UK riders.

Why it matters: All micromobility companies are going to great lengths to trumpet their safety innovations, from training schools to hardware features. This is the right way to enter the UK market and stands in stark contrast to the horrific death toll that is exacted daily on our roads by existing transport modes. According to company boss Zachary Wang, Neuron has secured at least one UK contract, so we welcome and applaud the joint RoSPA initiative.  RR

5: Electric scooters dominate as micromobility soars across USA

What: A NACTO report shows that 86m dockless shared e-scooters trips were made in 2019 in the US, trumping the 40m trips made using dock-based bike-share systems. The wider micromobility segment surged by 60% year-on-year to 136m trips; most growth was driven by e-scooters, which jumped from 36.5m trips in 2018 to 88.5m trips in 2019. And initial data seems to suggest that scooters are successfully replacing trips by car.

Why it matters: The US is about three years ahead of the UK with the shared e-scooter experiment. Both countries have a lot in common when it comes to designing cities for cars instead of walking, cycling and scooting. So, to put it simply, what works in the US may work well here. In three years’ time, we too may well see the stranglehold of motor vehicles over Britian’s urban spaces broken by the plucky two-wheeled electric machines, bringing associated benefits to air quality, public health and safer spaces for walkers and cyclists.  RR

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