The Urban Transport Group is calling for a new national enabling framework to give locally accountable transport authorities the option to regulate key aspects of micromobility rental services (like e-scooters) in line with local needs and circumstances, in a new report, published today.
The new powers would give authorities the option of regulating the number of operators, the size of their fleets, their geographical coverage, the location of their parking, as well as to recover reasonable costs from operators who use their roads and infrastructure. The report also recommends that micromobility rental scheme operators should be required to share data with authorities to support transport planning.
Over 30 trials of e-scooters, 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.
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 (including e-scooters) in their areas, to ensure that they complement existing transport provision and meet the wider needs of the people and places they serve.
Outside of the trials, whilst e-scooters are legal to buy and sell, their use on public roads, cycle ways and pavements remains illegal, but is increasingly common. Illegal use raises significant safety concerns given the immense variation in e-scooter quality and safety specifications currently available for people to buy.
With the end of the trials approaching, and increasing concerns about illegal use outside of them, the report – The future of e-scooters: What powers do cities need and what standards should be set? – outlines a series of recommendations for both the rental and ownership market should the Government decide to legalise their use following the trials.
Beyond the rental market, the report strongly recommends that the Department for Transport set robust standards for the construction (such as speed, wheel size, brakes and lighting) of e-scooters as well as for their use on the road, including details of applicable offences and how these will be enforced.
The report also sets out the wide-ranging risks if the report’s recommendations are not implemented.
- Danger to users, pedestrians and other road users from falls, collisions and other incidents;
- Micromobility services not complementing existing journey patterns and transport provision, limiting the capacity for modal shift;
- Pedestrians being unable to safely use obstructed streets and footways;
- Lack of data to inform transport planning;
- Lack of traceability of riders; and
- The potential for e-scooters to be used in criminal activity.
Laura Shoaf, Chair of the Urban Transport Group, and Chief Executive at West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “Our areas have enthusiastically taken part in the e-scooter trials as part of our wider role in exploring how new forms of mobility can bring benefits to travellers in a way that doesn’t act against the wider public interest.
“If e-scooters are legalised following the trials, we believe that whilst national Government should set a high bar for the safety and use of the e-scooters 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 minimising congestion and for promoting modal shift.”