UK set to trial e-scooters in West Midlands as part of post-lockdown travel plan


A man wearing a protective face mask on a scooter at Battersea Park in London on May 12, 2020. (REUTERS/John Sibley)
A man wearing a protective face mask on a scooter at Battersea Park in London on May 12, 2020. (REUTERS/John Sibley)

BRITAIN is set to trial electric scooters as a possible solution to getting more people back to work without overburdening trains and buses as it eases its coronavirus lockdown.

Like many other countries, Britain is keen to reopen for business, but wants to avoid people crowding back onto public transport as that could lead to a new spike in Covid-19 cases.

The government has chosen the West Midlands for the trial, which  could revolutionise the way people travel whilst bolstering the fight against climate change.

“Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Birmingham City Council and Coventry City Council will now work together to test the technology and better understand the benefits this new form of transport could bring,” said a TfWM statement.

The trials will look at how e-scooters, which can reach speeds of 20mph (32km/h), could be safely used in urban areas and integrated into the wider transport system.

The vehicles have become an increasingly popular form of urban transport in many cities around the world.

But some countries including Spain, France and Germany have clamped down, introducing speed limits and pavement bans, amid a rise in accidents, including a fatal crash in Singapore last year.

Britain currently allows e-scooters to be used only on private property.

But the government said e-scooter trials originally slated for next year would be brought forward to June because of the need to reduce pressure on public transport.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said: “This trial will help bring more flexibility, choice, and greener travel solutions for the region, at a time when we are facing a climate emergency and urging people to leave the car at home.

“We will also use the trial to look at the current transport challenges the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with and explore how e-scooters could be used to help tackle them.”

Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “With a relatively young demographic profile, especially in Birmingham which has one of Europe’s youngest populations, e-scooters could be a valuable and attractive part of the solution to help people move around the West Midlands.”

The trials are part of a wider plan to invest £2 billion ($2.5 billion) in cycling and walking as the country emerges from lockdown and to foster a new era of greener travel.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that people who cannot work from home should be encouraged to return to work.

But transport bosses have warned that London’s underground train and bus networks, which normally carry millions of passengers a day, will only be able to safely accommodate 13-15 per cent of pre-pandemic passenger numbers as lockdown eases.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also announced a major revamp of the capital’s streets this month to accommodate a potential 10-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking when restrictions ease.