E-scooters could soon be available to rent across a third of London boroughs after a 12-month trial was announced today.
Five boroughs – Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond and the City of London – will participate in the 12-month trial, which starts on June 7.
E-scooters will also be available in Canary Wharf and can be ridden through, but not hired or left, in the wider borough of Tower Hamlets.
Boroughs such as Southwark and Lambeth are keen to participate. Barnet, Camden, and Hounslow had previously indicated a desire to take part. Some boroughs are waiting to see what happens when the trial starts or have yet to resolve logistical issues, such as scooter parking bays or “geo-fencing” of no-go areas.
Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, told the Standard: “This is just the beginning of the trial. We are expecting other boroughs to join.
“No-one is going to be riding all the way across London on one, but what I wanted was enough ‘joined-up spaces’ to make this work. It’s another tool in helping us reduce congestion and improve air quality.”
The scooters will be limited to 12.5mph in London, 3mph slower than permitted in trials in the rest of the country. Lights will be automatically illuminated during the ride, and an audible alert can be activated to warn pedestrians.
Riders will not have to wear a helmet but it is recommended. They will have to take an online safety course before their first hire. Between 60 and 150 scooters will be available in each borough. Rides will only end when the scooter is parked in a designated bay.
Private e-scooters remain illegal and hired e-scooters can only be ridden on cycle lanes or the road – not on pavements.
The Royal Parks is not participating in the trial, meaning that the e-scooters cannot be used in Richmond Park, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, despite the involvement of a local borough.
A Royal Parks spokeswoman said on Tuesday afternoon: “The parks and other open spaces we care for are principally places for quiet recreation and where pedestrians have priority.
“It is important that all our visitors feel safe in the parks and we believe that the speed and stealth of e-scooters will have a negative impact on people’s experience of the parks, particularly those with young families, with mobility challenges or with a visual or hearing impairment.
“Allowing e-scooters to operate in the parks could discourage those who wish to walk to and through the parks and undermine the ambience of the green spaces.
“We will watch the London trial with interest, but we do not permit – and we have no plans to permit – the use of e-scooters in the parks.”
Richmond council said it had also designated the Thames towpath as a “no go” zone.
Mr Norman said: “We can’t uninvent them. They are here already. We need to make them safer. The police are going to continue enforcing against the private ones, which are still illegal.”
Each firm will charge £1 to unlock a scooter, with charges of 15p-20p per minute afterwards. They will use rechargeable batteries. Tier will offer users a free ride if they take the scooter to a charging shop to switch batteries.
The scooters use “geo-fencing” mapping technology and come to a safe halt as they reach the boundary of each trial area.
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.
Rob Whitehead, director of strategic projects at the Centre for London thinktank, said: “London has been slow to adopt e-scooters compared to elsewhere in the UK and around the world, so we’re pleased that Transport for London is finally pushing forward with a 12-month trial of rental e-scooters from June.
“The next step must be for the government to work with local authorities and transport agencies to legalise privately owned e-scooters so they are used safely and appropriately, and develop a roadmap which encourages the use of lower carbon, small vehicles in London.”
Philip Glanville, chairman of London Councils’ transport and environment committee and directly-elected mayor of Hackney, said: “The rental e-scooter trial has the potential to support our city-wide response to the coronavirus pandemic and boost London’s green recovery.
“Running the trial safely for all road users is vital. Boroughs will work with TfL, London Councils and operators to uphold the highest safety standards and take into account London’s most vulnerable residents, such as people with visual impairments.”
YouTube star Emily Hartridge was the first Londoner killed riding a privately owned e-scooter when she was thrown under a lorry in Battersea in July 2019 and died from multiple injuries.
Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said last year: “The scooter was being unsuitably driven, too fast with an underinflated tyre and this caused the loss of control and her death.”