Teesside trials electric scooters to help Britain back to work
UK’s first public E-scooter trial was announced, with a fleet of more than 100 scooters set to take to the streets around Teesside
The UK’s first public E-scooter trial was announced on Friday 3 July, with a fleet of more than 100 scooters set to take to the streets around Teesside.
The project is a joint venture between the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, and Ginger, a small UK-based E-scooter startup. The move comes days after the laws around E-scooters in the UK were changed — letting them ride on public roads so long as the scooters are not privately owned.
So why know? Why Teesside? And will this make any difference to anything at all?
Teesside’s e-scooter trial
“I have been a big fan of E-scooters for a very long time,” said Houchen, “and when the Government announced their plans to fast track their introduction, it was obvious that our region should be the first trial area.”
Clearly then, the local mayor is a motorised scooter enthusiast (but hopefully, he avoided them whilst owning or riding was illegal).
However, Houchen also seems to be determined to make his part of the North East as clean as possible.
“We are already a forward-thinking region,” said the mayor, “at the forefront of clean energy and developing the technologies of the future with the Net Zero Teesside carbon capture, storage and utilisation scheme.”
For Ginger, meanwhile, the benefits of the scheme are clear. It gets the company on the business map, given that its only previous work seems to have been running bicycle taxi services across London’s car-free Hammersmith Bridge.
It also gives the business a big shot in the arm, potentially granting it long-term cash flow should the trial prove popular.
“I strongly believe micro e-mobility offers unique solutions to today’s transport challenges,” said Paul Hodgins, Ginger’s CEO. “It is great that the Tees Valley Mayor and the Transport Secretary are making this public pilot the first in the UK, choosing to work with Ginger, a British innovator and transport provider.”
The trial also brings in some measures to prevent the E-scooters from becoming a nuisance and an eyesore, with parking locations being strictly geo-fenced. Ginger is also being responsible for charging the scooters, although it will look at on-street charging and docking locations as the trial progresses.
What does the trial mean for e-scooters elsewhere?
As it stands, E-scooter ownership in the UK remains illegal. However, regular users can rent them from authorised companies, such as Ginger. You’ll also need to be at least 16 years old to ride one and hold a provisional driving licence.
Currently, Teesside is the only place that you can legally rent and ride an e-scooter in the UK. However, don’t expect the new rule clarification to stop people riding them with impunity on most of the UK’s high streets.
For what it’s worth, Ginger is stressing that its E-scooters won’t be a nuisance in the Teesside area. All of its 100 or so models are limited to 12.5 mph, while they’ve also designated slow speed zones in certain areas. What’s more, its e-scooters can only be parked in designated parking areas and the battery is limited — you’ll only be able to travel for an hour or between 12-14 miles.
If this Teesside trial is successful, it seems likely that other areas of the country might look to get involved. Naturally, E-scooters work best in urban areas, so you’ll be unlikely to see one zipping down a hedgerow-lined country lane overtaking tractors. London, Manchester, and Birmingham will likely remain the most sought-after areas in Britain for businesses.
Why is the trial happening now?
As Ginger and Houchen were quick to point out, now is the perfect time to start exploring alternative transport methods.
The beauty of E-scooters is that they are a “socially distant mode of transport which will help get our workers moving safely again and give our businesses a boost following the coronavirus pandemic,” according to Houchon.
“We want to make sure that there are different types of travel for people,” he continued. “A car isn’t suitable for everybody, trains, busses, they all have their place and I think E-scooters and providers of e-scooters also have a very important place in active travel across the Tees Valley.”
“In particular, at the time of COVID, with social distancing requirements on public transport we’re trying to give people better options,” said Hodgins.
What’s more, the two seem to be absolutely correct. According to a recent survey, some 88% of British workers are not comfortable using public transport to commute in 2020. This kind of fear will likely make e-scooters a more enticing mode of transport than public transport.
Getting people back to work in all sectors will be key to restarting the British economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This trial could be an effective way to see whether people are willing to use e-scooters to commute to work in a socially distant manner.
Naturally, this would be a boon for small businesses whose employees can’t work at home and might be coming into close contact with customers. In fact, it might even help reluctant and car-less customers venture out of their homes and back to their local businesses.
If it proves successful, E-scooter schemes could provide another way to help get Britain’s motor running.