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E-scooter trials in the UK fast-tracked to next month

The £2 billion government package brings good news for pedestrians and cyclists, too

The UK Department for Transport has fast-tracked electric scooter trials from next year to next month, with a view to relieving pressure on public transport – thereby reducing the spread of coronavirus in the UK as the population gradually returns to work.

Initially, just four areas around the country – called “Future Transport Zones” – were set to trial e-scooters sometime in 2021, but the current pandemic now means that the trials have been brought forward to every UK city next month.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the news on Saturday, 9 May, citing greener travel habits and cleaner air as the other benefits of commuting via e-scooters. This e-scooter trial is part of a larger £2 billion government package that aims to usher in a new era of cycling and walking in the UK.

The first stage of this investment includes a £250 million emergency active travel fund that will be activated within weeks. This will be used for the creation of pop-up bike lanes to create a protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions and bus-only corridors.

With regard to e-scooters, the website states: “E-scooter trials will also be brought forward from next year to next month to help encourage more people off public transport and onto greener alternatives”.

These trials will give the government a chance to analyse the benefits of e-scooters and their impact on public space as people become wary of using public transport, especially during peak hours. In addition, the e-scooter trials could also see the introduction of rental e-scooters on UK roads within a few weeks.

Rental e-scooters work in the same way as public bike-sharing services like Santander Cycles (Boris Bikes), with e-scooters parked at different locations in the city. You can use an app to track the nearest one to you and make an in-app payment at the end of your trip.

In the last few years, rental e-scooters have become a common sight in many European and American cities where they are seen as a convenient and green mode of transport, but the UK has been reticent to adopt this.

More details of how these e-scooter trials will work are still to be unveiled. For example, it’s still unclear whether the use of a helmet will be mandatory and whether e-scooters will have maximum speed limitations.

At present, e-scooters are termed as personal light electric vehicles and can only be legally used on private land with the permission of the landowner. Riders caught can be fined £300 and receive six points on their driving license, but these rules could soon change.

E-scooters cost between £200 to £600 and can travel up to 30mph. They can be charged indoors overnight and last about 15-20 miles between charges. Read more about them and where to buy them in our best electric scooters round-up.

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