Sophie Hamilton Senior Associate
E-scooters - trial or triumph?
As discussed in my previous article here, an e-scooter trial led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) in partnership with Bristol City Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council, is currently taking place in our area.
On their website, WECA state that:
“…the trial is part of wider plans to make it easier to get around the West of England by giving people sustainable alternatives to using a car. The West of England is one of only four Future Transport Zones in the country, trialling using new transport technologies to cut congestion, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.”
Voi are the company renting out scooters in Bristol, and state:
“Riding a Voi scooter is the perfect way to get around the city, while sparing it from both noise and pollution.”
The trial started in the autumn of 2020 and was due to last 12 months, so should shortly be coming to an end. However, Bristol City Council is discussing extending the trial, and there are voices both for and against the extension.
Whilst the Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees is apparently in favour of extending the trial to Spring 2022, with a view to e-scooters becoming a permanent mode of transport, it is understood from news reports that a number of Conservative Councillors are of the view that the trial should be stopped as “serious problems” with the experiment have emerged.
Arguments against the use of e-scooters, particularly those privately owned, are that they are dangerous and create hazards, such as when ridden on pavements, blocking pavements when badly parked or even discarded, or simply when ridden without due care. Opponents are worried that as the use of e-scooters increase, this will inevitably lead to an increase in accidents.
Given the risks discussed above, is the use of e-scooters actually achieving the stated goal of cutting car journeys, and therefore reducing dangerous emissions, as intended? WECA itself admits that Voi e-scooter journeys have actually replaced more walks than car journeys so far, so the answer may be no.
Perhaps the answer is in increased education and training in the use of e-scooters, as well as more active policing, particularly in respect of the illegal privately owned e-scooters. However, how such initiatives should or could be funded, when local authorities and police forces are already dealing with limited resources, will no doubt be an issue.
It will certainly be interesting to see the eventual decision made by Bristol City Council, after what I imagine will be a lively debate.