Electric scooters are finally coming to the UK after the Department for Transport confirmed it would allow limited trials of rented two-wheelers from this weekend.
The regulations permitting electric scooters come into force on Saturday and will last for 12 months. The DfT expects the first schemes to go into place next week.
Local authorities can opt to run their own rental schemes, or allow a third-party service – like Lime or Spin – to operate it for them.
The aim of the tests is to gauge whether they're an effective way of reducing car traffic while determining their impact on overall road safety.
Users will be permitted to ride electric scooters on roads, tracks and public cycle lanes, but will be required to hold a full or provisional driver's licence and wear a helmet. It will remain illegal for individuals to drive privately owned scooters on public highways.
In a statement, UK transport minister Rachel Maclean said: "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."
Outside the UK, electric scooters have long been a hallmark of city living, with the battery-powered vehicles present in San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Barcelona, to name just a few locations.
Advocates of the technology argue that they provide an environmentally friendly approach to last-mile transportation. But electric scooters are not without their detractors, and the vehicles are associated with sidewalk hazards and clutter. Others have pointed out the short lifespan of electric scooters, with various studies giving them as little as 28 days of use before they're scrapped.
Predictably, the move has won the approval of the electric scooter industry. Felix Petersen, head of Europe for the Ford-owned Spin, said: "We are thrilled the UK government is fast-tracking trials to bring e-scooters to cities throughout the country. Working together with the UK government, micromobility services like Spin can speed the recovery of public transport networks, which may temporarily fall short of meeting people's needs due to reduced service.
"Micromobility delivers a convenient, clean and cost-effective travel choice instead of buying a car or using ride-hailing services that increase congestion and pollution. In the US, we have seen our own ridership bounce back faster than public transit, competing with both walking and driving." ®