The launch of the e-scooter rental trials in London hit an early bump in the road on Monday when one of the main areas postponed its involvement.
The City of London was last month announced by Transport for London as one of five boroughs where the electric-powered scooters could be hired from Monday under a 12-month Government-backed trial.
On Sunday The Standard learned the City Corporation, the local authority for the Square Mile, said it would not be joining the scheme until July 5, apparently due to a delay in resolving administrative rather than safety concerns.
This will restrict the initial use of the e-scooters to Canary Wharf and to four west London boroughs – Richmond, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea. The original plan had been to allow e-scooters to be ridden between the twin financial hubs of Canary Wharf and the Square Mile.
A City of London Corporation spokesperson said: “The City Corporation will join the London rental e-Scooter trial from July 5.
“We are committed to investigating how e-scooters can play a role in supporting a shift to sustainable travel to compliment walking, cycling and public transport options in the Square Mile.”
The scooters will be restricted by “geo-fencing” on-board computer systems from working in boroughs that have not signed up – slowly grinding to a halt when ridden beyond the agreed boundaries.
Three operators – Dott, Lime and Tier – will each provide between 60 and 150 e-scooters in each of the boroughs. Tower Hamlets will be a “ride-through” borough but, except for the Canary Wharf estate, scooters cannot be hired or parked.
Three more boroughs are due to join the trial next month in addition to the City of London - Southwark, Lambeth and Westminster.
There are about 100 e-scooters available from Monday at Canary Wharf.
However the Royal Parks has refused to take part in the trial, meaning they cannot be ridden in Richmond Park or Kensington Gardens.
TfL says it will cost between £3.25 and £3.40 for a typical 15-minute ride. Each operator will charge £1 to “unlock” a scooter, followed by a per minute fee of 15p for Dott and Tier and 16p for Lime.
Tier said it would not charge riders while they were stationary at traffic lights, in a bid to discourage “reckless riding”. It fears some riders may race against the clock because of the per-minute charging structure. It will also give riders a free minute at the start of each trip to put on a helmet.
The rules of the road for e-scooters are similar to those for cyclists – helmets are recommended but not mandatory, and riding on the pavement is illegal.
Transport chiefs admit the “genie is out of the bottle” as so many privately owned e-scooters are already being ridden - illegally - in London. They hope the hire scheme will help to bring the mode of transport back within the law.
Will Norman, the Mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner, said: “I don’t know if this will work for London. That is why we are doing a trial. Let’s see what role they can play in reducing our car traffic. We know that they’re popular already but we need to make them safer for everybody.”
Phil Glanville, transport and environment chairman at London Councils, which represents the 33 boroughs, said the task of mapping each street where scooters can be used had caused some delays in the roll-out.
Asked how many boroughs he expected to be participating in the trial by the time it closes in a year, he said: “I think it’s too early to say. We saw almost a third of boroughs had shown an initial high level of interest. I think it could [eventually] be between a third and a half.”
TfL has vowed to put safety at the “core of the trial”. Speeds will be limited to 12.5mph – slower than the 15.5mph allowed in trials elsewhere in the country – and the scooters will have their lights on permanently.
Each rider’s journey data will be anonymised and shared with the Department for Transport to help shape Government policy on e-scooters, including privately owned e-scooters, which remain illegal on public roads.
TfL and London Councils hope that e-scooters will become a safe and “green” alternative to car use for shorter journeys. Riders have to take an online safety course before their first journey.
About a third of the 33 boroughs are thought likely to participate in the trial at some stage in the coming 12 months.
Riders of private e-scooters are at risk of a £300 fixed penalty notice and six points on their driving licence if stopped by police.
Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens, of the Metropolitan Police, said it backed the trial but added: “We’d like to remind everybody that private e-scooters used outside this trial remain illegal and will be dealt with by way of seizure.”