Electric Scooters - A New Transport Alternative?

Electric scooters have been exponentially growing in popularity as more and more people are seeking alternative clean transportation. The main companies, Lime and Bird, started in 2017 and have seen investment from large companies such as Uber to make a more convenient and user-friendly experience. Their main ambitions are to reduce congestions in major cities through a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative of travel. They even offer rewards for taking a selfie when wearing a helmet to promote safe travel.

Scooter (Guardian, 2019)

How does it work?

These rental schemes use technology at the forefront of their experience. To start, you need to download either their own company app or other supporting apps and search for your nearest scooter. These can be at dedicated stations or can be found parked on the sidewalk. Scanning the QR code will give you access to the scooter and then you will be charged based on the distance covered and time spent using the scooter. Once you are finished, all they ask is that you leave the scooter away from public walkways in a convenient location (using the kickstand). This level of convenience is something that has never been offered before. It can be compared to electric bikes, however, they often require you to return them to dedicated stations which can be time consuming and inconvenient.

Are they environmentally friendly?

In short, yes. They produce no emissions as they are electrical (only minor braking related particle production). Lime offers an interesting scheme whereby people are charged $3-$7 to charge a scooter if the battery is low overnight, as long as they release them the next day. The scooters themselves do not consume a large amount of energy, and relatively cheap and quick to charge, making it a great system to keep the community involved. One issue is the batteries can last between 1-3 years, meaning they need frequently replacing at high volume. I went into detail about the impact of batteries and their negative environmental impact here. [Issue] Why Battery Storage is Currently Unsustainable. There are also concerns about the emissions created during the production phase of these scooters, however, little evidence exists to show just how bad this could be.

Why don’t we have them in the U.K?

To put it simply, electric scooters are illegal in the U.K. It seems rather bizarre that something like this would be against the law to use in the U.K, but it’s true. The fact that the scooters are powered by electric motor deems them a PLEV (Persona Light Electric Vehicle), which means they would need to meet highway standards (MOT, visible lights, licensing etc… ) based on the 1988 Road Traffic Act and the 1835 Highway Act. Yes, that’s right, an 1835 Highway Act is preventing the use of electric scooters in major U.K cities.

Many people have held the Department for Transport accountable for hindering the development of electric scooters and recently, they have decided that change is needed. It is expected that as quickly as this month, the Department for Transport will announce changes to the regulations which will allow the use of Personal Light Electric Vehicles on roads, as long as they adhere to certain restrictions (A maximum speed of around 15mph being one). This could be very important as major cities in the U.K, Birmingham being one, are restricting the use of cars within the city centre in order to create a more environmentally sustainable city. Electric scooters could be a great transition as these cities develop better and more efficient Mass Transit Systems to ensure that people can still navigate the city without their car.

Personally, this would be great for me. I don’t drive anyway so scooters would be a fantastic alternative to navigate the city.

-Would you change the way you travel to use electric scooters?

-Will the public seek comfort in their usual transport or be drawn to the convenience of this new form of transportation?

It’ll be interesting to see when these laws change and how quickly thereafter electric scooters will make their way to a city near you.

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ITV News just reported on some of the dangers of high speed electric scooters (On the 6:30 news slot) and as an advocate for this form of transport I feel like this was massively blown out of context.

The main argument was based on the fact that some of these new models of electric scooter can travel as fast as 50 mph. Subsequently this would endanger the public, particularly people who suffer from disabilities.

Currently, electric scooters in the UK are only allowed on private land, not for use in public. Furthermore, in places where electric scooters are used as public transportation, there are strict speed limits enforced. 15 mph speed limits exist in California (state dependent) and 25 kph limits exist in European countries such as France. Also, they are supposed to be used on roads and cycle lanes, rather than on pavements. In some areas, kids can use them on pavements as long as they abide by a lesser speed.

I feel as though the ITV presented a very negative perspective towards something that doesn’t exist currently in the U.K, and I am quite disappointed that they shined a negative light on something that could be very beneficial in terms of environmental sustainability in transport.