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UK embraces e-scooters to ease public transport pressure
- May 13, 2020
To keep public transport numbers down, the British government has announced an extra £250m in emergency funding for e-scooters and plans to fast track safety trials for new models.
This funding is the first phase of a £5bn programme for new cycling and bus transport infrastructure. As part of plans announced, many roads throughout Britain will be closed to cars, with use restricted to pedestrians, bicycles, e-scooters and public buses. The government has also announced funding and measures to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles and the creation of a nationwide EV charging infrastructure.
The government is also consulting with transport technology experts, including Google, Zipabout and Trainline, to develop mobile phone apps and infrastructure to provide real-time alerts to the public on the status of public transport lines and buses, and how busy they are. The aim is to help people stagger their journeys to avoid transport congestion.
The lockdown instituted by the British government has seen a surge in people walking and cycling. Car use has fallen dramatically since the lockdown, and pollution levels and noise in large cities have fallen dramatically. There has been considerable comment on social media against any return to the pollution and noise levels of before the coronavirus lockdown.
Last month, the government announced e-scooter trials in four specially designated Future Transport Zones. The government has now changed the trials so they will take place in every district and local area throughout the country. The accelerated pace could mean that rental e-scooters could be on UK roads by as early as June.
Reducing use of public transport is seen as essential to lowering the risk of coronavirus infections. With social distancing measures in place, only a tenth of passengers would be able to use public transport compared to pre-lockdown figures.
Making the announcement on May 9th, British transport secretary Grant Shapps urged people to walk or cycle, if they could, and to take every measure to avoid using public transport. However, the UK government has recognised that for some people, their place of work is too far for them to cycle. The hope is that e-scooters can provide an additional means of transport.
British cities have adopted rental bicycles, with large-scale schemes having been rolled out in many cities. However, the UK has shied away from e-scooters over concerns for safety both of riders and pedestrians. There have been several deaths due to e-scooters, including the death of a broadcast journalist last year in London, and the government has up to now been cautious about allowing e-scooters onto the streets.
The government has also announced a consultation to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in Britain, and £10m extra has been committed immediately to allow local authorities to install some 7200 on-street residential charge points. Further funding is likely when the consultation concludes.
French capital Paris by contrast has already adopted a public e-scooter rental scheme similar to London’s rental bicycle scheme.
The UK government has fast-tracked statutory guidance to order local councils to redesignate road space in their areas for a considerable increase of pedestrian and cycling use. Many streets in UK towns and cities are now likely to become bike, bus and pedestrian only, the government’s guidance has suggested.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson, as well as several of his ministers, are well known advocates of cycling, and Johnson introduced the London bike rental scheme when mayor of London.
The picture shows an Inokim e-scooter from UK firm Scootin.