This article was published on March 7, 2022

UK transport authorities call for powers to set escooter rules

Towards a new national framework?

UK transport authorities call for powers to set escooter rules

This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates, follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

The Urban Transport Group is calling for a new national framework to give local transport authorities the option to regulate key aspects of micromobility services in line with their individual needs and circumstances.

In a new report, the network of the UK’s major city region transport authorities says new powers could give them the option of regulating the number of escooter operators, the size of their fleets, their geographical coverage, and the location of their parking. They also want the ability to recover reasonable costs from operators who use their roads and infrastructure.

The report recommends that micromobility rental scheme operators should be required to share data with authorities to support transport planning.

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“Our areas have enthusiastically taken part in the escooter trials as part of our wider role in exploring how new forms of mobility can bring benefits to travelers in a way that doesn’t act against the wider public interest,” said Laura Shoaf, Chair of the Urban Transport Group and Chief Executive at West Midlands Combined Authority.

“If escooters are legalized following the trials, we believe that whilst national government should set a high bar for the safety and use of the escooters themselves, authorities need to have powers available to them to regulate the operation of the rental market. These powers are needed to give us the tools to act if necessary against over-provision or irresponsible parking and use. These powers would also allow us to find the balance that works locally between the benefits to individual users and the wider responsibility we have for public safety, for minimizing congestion and for promoting modal shift.”

Who should regulate?

Although implementation of new powers may depend on local circumstances, the report recommends that locally accountable strategic transport authorities are best placed to regulate micromobility rental services in their areas, to ensure that they complement existing transport provision and meet the wider needs of the people and places they serve.

Over 30 trials of escooters, initially set to run for a year, are underway in towns and cities across England, and most of these have now been extended to November 2022.

Several major micromobility operators — including Spin, Lime, Voi, Ginger, Neuron, Beryl, and Bird — have run or are currently running the trials, which are the only legal way to use escooters on public roads in the UK.

Outside of the trials, whilst escooters are legal to buy and sell, their use on roads, cycle ways and pavements remains illegal, but is increasingly common.

In response to the report, Alan Clarke, Senior Director of Policy at Lime, told Cities Today: “At Lime, we accept the principle of companies supporting local authorities with reasonable permit or licence fees and are in favor of more generalized road pricing for all vehicles.

“It’s important to note that all local authorities have decarbonization goals, climate change policies and many have declared climate emergencies.”

“Therefore, any charges paid by sustainable travel services, like escooters, should be proportionate, and the money used to support these goals. It’s important that sustainable transport options are supported to help get more [people] out of polluting forms of transport like private cars.”

A spokesperson for Voi said: “Voi welcomes the recommendations from the Urban Transport Group, and will continue to work closely with all relevant stakeholders and our city partners to support them to achieve their local transport and sustainability goals, ensuring micromobility can come to the fore, reducing reliance on cars for short journeys, and overall supporting the government to achieve its net-zero goals.”

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