A new report published today by Centre for London calls on the government to legalise private and shared e-scooters alongside a comprehensive package of measures to ensure their rollout is safe, affordable, and accessible to all.
These include giving Transport for London the power to manage shared e-scooter schemes in the capital, ensuring all vehicles meet minimum safety standards, and requiring operators to provide access to shared schemes in neighbourhoods with fewer public transport options.
The report by Centre for London, looks at how micromobility vehicles such as e-scooters and e-bikes could help to reduce car use, cut carbon emissions, and improve air quality in the capital. It finds that:
- Two thirds of car trips in London could be made by micromobility vehicles in 20 minutes or less, with most of these trips taking place in outer London where there are fewer public transport options.
- Micromobility vehicles emit between 34 and 90 per cent (shared e-scooter vs private bike) fewer carbon emissions than private cars, and do not produce harmful pollutants at the point of use.
The report, Micromobility in London, calls on the government to make the most of the opportunities presented by these vehicles. To encourage take up and use, it recommends that private ownership and safe ridership of e-scooters should be legalised on roads, as well as shared e-scooter and e-bike schemes.
The authors highlight the need to streamline the experience of riding and parking e-scooters and e-bikes. They argue that inconsistencies in provision, such as stopping shared e-scooters at local authority boundaries could prevent people from using them, particularly new users or those on low incomes who may rely on a shared vehicle. To mitigate this, the government should give Transport for London the power to manage shared schemes across the city, in collaboration with local authorities and operators.
The report also makes clear that operators have a responsibility to make e-scooter and e-bike use safe for riders and pedestrians. This includes using penalties and rewards such as price incentives to encourage safe riding and parking, as well as working with local authorities to deliver micromobility training to new riders. The report also recommends that all vehicles must meet minimum safety standards both at the point of sale and while being ridden, such as a maximum permitted speed and having lights to ensure they can be ridden safely alongside bicycles. Police should be able to enforce bans where unsafe riding persists.
The report also argues that legalisation must go hand-in-hand with policies to make micromobility accessible to all, particularly for the one third of Londoners who live in areas with the lowest public transport accessibility levels. It calls on operators of shared schemes to be required to provide access in less populated areas, particularly outer London. Transport for London should also work with local authorities and operators to encourage take up of these vehicles by those least likely to consider using them, including women and older Londoners.
The report also notes that high upfront costs of e-bikes and e-scooters are a significant barrier to people living on low incomes – disproportionately Black and Asian Londoners, women, and young Londoners – from buying these vehicles and benefitting from any resulting cost savings of using them instead of a car. The report recommends that the government offers tax incentives and loans to anyone wanting to buy a micromobility vehicle, building on the Cycle to Work scheme.
Josh Cottell, Research Manager, Centre for London said:
“E-scooter and e-bike use are on the rise, with more than four million trips were made on shared e-scooters in the first 11 months of UK trials while the number of e-bikes sold in the UK increased by 70 per cent between 2019 and 2020.
“The shift to these emerging vehicles is already happening but we need the government to catch up and introduce policies which encourage safe ridership of e-scooters and e-bikes on our streets and ensures anyone who wants to use these vehicles is able to do so.
“Legalising private ownership and riding is the first step towards building a gold standard for micromobility in the UK, with Transport for London – and other equivalent authorities in towns and cities across the country given the powers to arrange shared schemes for micromobility vehicles as they emerge.”
Duncan Robertson, General Manager UK/Ireland, Dott said:
“We believe that integrating shared micromobility into London’s transport system will lead to a more pleasant, less polluted and less congested city. Powered by renewable energy, Dott’s e-scooters offer Londoners the choice to travel in an environmentally friendly, fun and efficient way.
“For e-scooters and e-bikes to be a truly compelling alternative to cars, cities need to set standards that ensure riders, pedestrians and other road users can travel safely. We work closely with the communities in which we operate to help introduce our services safely, and collaborating with the Centre for London on this research highlights the importance of a consistent approach across the city which would offer riders the best experience and encourage the switch to a greener way to travel.”
Nathan Ashley, Senior Public Policy Manager UK, Ireland & Benelux, Voi said:
“As a leading provider of shared micromobility across the UK, safety and accessibility have always been at the heart of everything we do to ensure our e-scooter and e-bike riders, and all other road users can benefit from the introduction of these sustainable modes of transport.
“This report echoes our mission statement and makes recommendations we’ve been championing since the launch of our trials in the UK, such as providing training to our riders via the first online e-scooter training school, RideLikeVoila; rewarding our riders to park in the safest spots; piloting e-scooter sound on our scooters to protect pedestrians with sight loss or introducing penalties to those who do not follow the rules with our ‘end of ride photo’ and our three strike policy.
“While our experience tells us that one size doesn’t fit all, cities such as London can benefit from insights and learnings from other UK cities where e-scooter and e-bike trials are taking place, be that on safety, technology or operations. Furthermore, while legislation is required, it should allow for some flexibility so operators can continue to adapt and innovate to drive micromobility adoption, reducing reliance on cars and taking a step forward in reclaiming our cities, turning them into better and healthier places to live.”
Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, said:
“We recognise the opportunities presented by micromobility and through our e-scooter trial and ongoing work, we are looking at both the long-term role they could play in a green and sustainable future for the capital, as well as the role they can play in avoiding a car-led recovery from the pandemic.
“The trial will allow us to collect data that will further help to shape UK and London policy in micromobility.
“Safety remains our top priority and we will continue to closely monitor e-scooters in trial areas, making improvements wherever identified.”
Notes to Editors
- This report was funded by Van and Eva DuBose, Major Sponsors Dott and Voi, and In-Kind Project Partner Steer.
- This report was guided by an expert advisory group: Nathan Ashley (Senior Public Policy Manager, Voi Scooters), Matthew Clark (Associate, Steer), Vanessa Harrison (Principal Policy Officer, Greater London Authority), Marion Lagadic (Project manager, 6t), Tiffany Lam (Inclusive Cycling Expert), Grace Packard (Principle Consultant, Momentum Transport), Sebastian Schlebusch (Head of Market Development, Dott), Ashok Sinha (Chief Executive, London Cycling Campaign), and Lorna Stevenson (Student, Active Travel Academy, University of Westminster). The views expressed in this report are solely those of the authors.
- Centre for London is the Secretariat for the London Micromobility Alliance, a group that seeks to research and promote micromobility (bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, cargo bikes) as a solution to many of London’s most pressing challenges.
- Shared e-scooter trials began in London on 7 June 2021.
- Car trips: Transport for London. (2018). Cycling Action Plan. https://content.tfl.gov.uk/cycling-action-plan.pdf
- Carbon emissions: International Transport Forum. (2020b, September 17)
- E-bike sales : Sutton, M. (2021, June 18). UK electric bike sales value hits 23% of total, says Mintel. Cycling Industry News. Retrieved from: https://cyclingindustry.news/electric-bikesales-value-bike-demand-rising/
- E-scooter trips: O’Brien, O. (2021, June 3). Four million journeys completed as UK shared e-scooter fleets accelerate. Zag. Retrieved from: https://mindthezag.com/featured/fourmillion- journeys-completed-as-uk-shared-e-scooter-fleets-accelerate/; Ashley, N.Author’s correspondence, 19 August 2021.