How popular are they? How safe are they? How regulated should they be? How successful are the UK trials? How much part of sustainable travel are they?
Paris has got quite enough on its plate at the moment – but one significant signal it sent out a couple of months ago was that it doesn’t want e-scooters:
Paris was a pioneer when it introduced e-scooters, or trottinettes, in 2018 as the city’s authorities sought to promote non-polluting forms of urban transport. But as the two-wheeled vehicles grew in popularity, especially among young people, so did the number of accidents: in 2022, three people died and 459 were injured in e-scooter accidents in Paris… Parisians vote to ban rental e-scooters from French capital by huge margin | Paris | The Guardian
Other European cities have brought in restrictions or bans: After the Paris ban, what’s next for e-scooters? – Eurocities
Stakeholders and supporters are naturally worried:
With Paris becoming the first city in the world to ban e-scooters, the industry is left with many questions: what will be the wider consequences of the ban? Will any other cities follow Paris’ lead? Will the city’s decision potentially impact future development? All that we know now is that operators will continue fighting the good fight, and all that is left to do is to see what happens between now and the expiration of the involved operators’ permits on 1 September 2023, with the hope that there is a brighter future ahead. Halting e-scooter progress: Why is Paris taking a step backwards?
Meanwhile, they are still illegal in the UK: Advice on e-scooter usage | Devon & Cornwall Police
And can only be allowed through strict trials: E-scooter trials: guidance for users – GOV.UK
With one started up a couple of weeks ago in Devon:
A fleet of electric scooters are available to hire in Barnstaple as part of the Department for Transport (DfT)’s approved e-scooter trials. The town has recently started hosting a Department for Transport approved e-scooter trial, which is being delivered by a company called Zipp. North Devon Council say the fleet of bright yellow scooters offer a greener alternative to getting around the town, reducing the ‘unnecessary car journeys that can contribute to congestion within town centres and built-up residential areas. The trial is scheduled to last until the end of May next year and there are currently 50 scooters in use in the Barnstaple area. E-scooters are now legal to use in parts of a Devon town – Devon Live
And with a new contractor announced this week: New e-scooter provider secured for West of England – Business Live
The first trial, however, has been in Bristol/Bath: E-scooters trial | BETA – South Gloucestershire Council
Which has been now seen as successful – and since late last year has been part of the scene in Bristol: E-scooter hire – Travelwest
It’s still difficult, however, to work out how ‘safe’ they are:
Despite fears, Vivacity’s sensors found that on average, just 3.6% of e-scooters were going onto the pavement, compared with 5.5% of cyclists. This stands in stark contrast to reports from other cities: in September, Kent County Council announced it would end its e-scooter trial early because of safety concerns, while research by surgeons in Liverpool says that the trial correlated with a “marked increase in musculoskeletal trauma” in the city. Comprehensive research into the safety of e-scooters is difficult to find, as the government-issued data is extremely experimental, relying on collisions that have been reported to the police...
A city with strong infrastructure and culture around bicycles may be able to transfer that onto their e-scooter usage, making e-scooters safer and more integrated into the city’s transport. The early data from Bristol, showing riders using scooters during the day as well as to commute to work and study, suggest the city may have achieved that goal. Analysis by transport infrastructure company Colas ranked Bristol as the UK’s most cycle-friendly city, while Liverpool came close to the bottom of the ranking at 17. In summer 2020, Bristol City Council closed Bristol Bridge to private cars, prioritising bicycles, e-scooters and public transport in an effort to improve air quality, and in July 2021 it was announced the closure would be made permanent.
But it’s not yet fully known how much the e-scooters are contributing to more sustainable travel – whether they are reducing the number of cars on the road or just replacing walkers. The hope is that now that the official trial period has ended, a full analysis of the scheme will shed some light on e-scooters’ role in urban transport, and what regulation is needed to ensure their effective and safe use.