Along with bicycles, are electric scooters ready to take over from cars?
When transport secretary Grant Shapps appeared at the podium inside Number 10 last weekend and talked about £2bn investment in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, excited employees of electric scooter businesses tuned in at home to watch his speech.
Shapps announced that the Government would bring forward the testing of electric scooters on public highways from next year to next month, expanding the number of potential regions from four local authorities to the entire country.
Electric scooter businesses were quick to welcome the announcement. They have been waiting years to be able to get their scooters onto public roads in the UK. Currently, it’s illegal to ride an electric scooter on British roads and pavements. Anyone found doing so would be committing the offence and police could issue anyone using an electric scooter on a highway with a fixed penalty notice of £300 and six points on their licence.
They see Shapps’ announcement as the starting pistol for a new opportunity to prove that their businesses could remake transport in the UK. But are electric scooters ready to replace cars for the daily commutes of millions of Britons?
The Government’s hope is that scooter trials could help take the pressure off public transport networks which are poorly suited to maintaining social distancing as people start to return to their offices.
If successful, the trials could lead to changes to a series of transport laws which block the use of electric scooters on public highways, including the Highway Act 1835.
“It’s an incredible opportunity and I'm really excited,” says Patrick Studener, the European head of electric scooter rental business Bird, “maybe we can come out of this with a green transport revolution.”
Bike sales have already soared during lockdown and are set to rise further. Indeed, some describe bikes as the new loo rolls as they are now almost impossible to buy - they've all gone!
Maybe the same thing is about to occur to electric scooters.