The UK is fast-tracking its electric scooter trials in response to a COVID-19 crisis that has underscored the need to provide sustainable and responsible transportation options.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made the announcement today, citing ministers’ concerns with the potential spread of the coronavirus during periods of rush hour traffic. Trials are slated to begin next month, along with a planned £250 million in new cycle lanes.
Electric scooters have been identified globally as a potential solution to the problem of overcrowded trains and busses in the wake of the current health crisis, and for good reason: data clearly indicate that, during times of disruption to local public transit networks, people turn to electric scooters as a safe and efficient alternative. In Paris alone, Bird ridership increased by close to 300% during December’s city-wide metro strikes.
“At such a crucial time, it’s inspiring to see the UK Government taking significant strides to accelerate access to shared micromobility – putting safety and climate action at the top of the agenda,” said Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of Bird. “With public transport capacity constrained due to the pandemic e-scooters will provide people with a sustainable and socially responsible transportation option.”
The UK’s decision to speed up scooter trials is being hailed as a green transport revolution in one of the only remaining European nations to still outlaw the lightweight electric vehicles on public streets and cycleways. Since launching in Germany last year, 50.9% of e-scooter rides have been used to replace trips that would otherwise have been made by car according to a Nunatak survey of more than 1,200 micromobility users.
Next month’s trials will provide a strong evidence base for UK legislators to decide how small electric vehicles should be regulated in the future to make sure that their benefits can be realized responsibly.
The announcement comes one day after Bird ramped up our service in nearby Paris to help essential workers as well as city residents ease out of a nearly two-month long confinement period.