E-scooter trials have helped fuel a ‘progressive shift away from private vehicles,’ according to the Government’s official review.
Following the launch of England’s 32 e-scooter rental schemes in July 2020, the Department for Transport (DfT) commissioned an independent review of the trials, running from July 2020 to early 2022.
The DfT has now released its response to the report, highlighting some of the positives and areas for concern that have arisen from the trial of rental e-scooters.
Among the positives the report, carried out by Arup, Natcen and Valtech, noted an increased use of e-scooters for purposeful journeys such as commuting, along with a “progressive increase in mode shift away from private vehicles as trials matured.”
Rental e-scooters also helped provide access to new travel options for ethnic minority groups and people on low incomes, as these groups were more likely to use e-scooters regularly.
A majority of residents in trial areas also saw the introduction of e-scooters as positive.
The report did also highlight a number of areas of concern, including around safety.
Data indicated that e-scooter collisions were more common than pedal cycle collisions in 2021 (including both bikes and e-bikes). The report said this was likely to be driven in part by the novel nature of the mode of transport, as collisions were more likely to occur among less experienced users, making like-for-like comparisons with other modes of transport difficult.
Injuries among e-scooter riders were similar to those reported by cyclists.
E-scooter riders and other road users also raised concerns around technical elements of e-scooter design, such as audibility, visibility, and acceleration.
Some members of the public also raised concerns about the behaviour of individual e-scooter riders – pavement riding was a particular cause for concern amongst pedestrians with mobility issues, and blind or partially sighted people.
The DfT also highlighted changes it made during the trials in response to safety concerns, including mandatory unique identification numbers for all rental scooters, and increased guidance and encouragement for operators to provide helmets and incentivise use.
In response to the report, the DfT said: “To maximise the benefits of the e-scooter trials evaluation report, DfT will learn lessons from this evaluation and we look forward to releasing further information on the future policy around e-scooters and similar light electric vehicles.”
The Government’s initial trial period for e-scooter rentals came to an end last month, with some areas (including London) opting to continue their trials to 2024.
However other regions, including Kent, opted to bring their scooter trials to a close.
Trials are also being used to collect safety and user data to inform legislation around the legalisation of privately-owned e-scooters, expected in 2023.