The trial of e-scooters in the West Midlands will start next week, according to the West Midlands Combined Authority, with Swedish company Voi appointed as the operator.
The trial will launch to the public in Birmingham and Coventry next week and be rolled-out across the region soon after. Afterwards, the scooters will be deployed in, Sandwell (West Bromwich), Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Warwickshire.
The tender process, which was started last month by Transport for West Midlands, concluded with the contract being offered to Voi as the sole operator. Voi launched Europe’s first dockless e-scooter service in 2018 and now operates in 45 cities across 11 countries.
The trial is due to run for 12 months. It will be closely reviewed by the Department of Transport and Transport for West Midlands working closely with local authorities and stakeholders, with a view to establishing longer-term options for e-scooters in the region.
The public will initially be able to access and ride e-scooters within the immediate vicinity of Birmingham and Coventry’s city centre, with an ambition to expand the trial zones as the trial progresses.
For the purpose of the trial the DfT requires a maximum speed of 15.5 mph on roads. In pedestrianised areas a lower speed limit of 5mph will be applicable. E-scooters are allowed on any 30 mph or less road, however the council have advised users to use designated cycle routes wherever possible.
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said: “The West Midlands is proud to be leading the way on future transport development, and it is great to be able to partner with Voi and reveal our plans for e-scooters across the region.
“E-scooters will help bring more flexibility, choice, and greener travel solutions for the West Midlands, at a time when we are facing a climate emergency and urging people to leave the car at home. E-scooters unquestionably offer a healthier, more environmentally friendly, alternative to the car for shorter journeys around our towns and cities, which will in turn help to ease traffic congestion and tackle air pollution.
“As well as the improvements to our transport network, e-scooters could also be a much-needed boost for the region’s economy, helping to attract people back into our town and city centres.
“It is a great coup for the West Midlands to be at the forefront of the Government’s e-scooter trial, and I look forward to continuing to work with Voi and local authorities to make sure we maximise the potential of e-scooters across the region.”
The Department of Transport passed legislation earlier this year to accelerate the deployment of e-scooter trials across the UK, to assist with the sustainable reopening of the economy and transport systems as the country emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown.
Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, Cllr Waseem Zaffar, said: “This is brilliant news for the West Midlands, and I am delighted that Birmingham will be one of the first UK cities to trial e-scooters. This provides the public with yet another green alternative to private car, supporting social distancing but also helping to reduce pollution levels and improve air quality.
“Working with our partners, we have managed to turn this project around really quickly and made sure that safety is absolutely paramount. I hope the people of Birmingham will embrace this new, environmentally-friendly way of getting around our city.”
Up to 10,000 e-scooters are due to be deployed across the region over the course of the trial. Birmingham and Coventry will initially start with 200 each, with demand monitored by Voi – working closely with Local Authorities.
Riders will need a provisional or full driving licence to unlock an e-scooter. They will cost £1 to unlock and 20p per minute to ride, however there will be reduced rates for NHS workers, students and those on low incomes. Those who are looking to use the e-scooters regularly can have unlimited rides for £40 per month. Private e-scooters will not be permitted as part of the trial.
To make sure that e-scooters are introduced as safely as possible, Voi has gone over and above Government requirements on age limits, insurance and rider verification. Voi will provide in person and online rider education, provide rider identity verification and will make #RideLikeVoila – its online traffic school – available to users in the West Midlands.
Lucy Yu, Voi’s Director of Public Policy, said: “In the UK, 60 per cent of car journeys are between one and three miles, which significantly increases congestion. Cars no longer suit the way we live today, and we estimate that 20 per cent of short journeys could be replaced by low-carbon e-scooters with a minimum five-year lifespan. E-scooters provide a compelling alternative that will outrun the car.”
Voi is also committed to upholding West Midlands Combined Authority’s health and safety policy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the region. Voi is adding Shieldex Copper-Tape to the handlebars of its e-scooters, which kill 99.98% of coronavirus on contact, and all e-scooters will be disinfected every 24 hours.