By Emma Batha
LONDON, May 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain is 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 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 only allows e-scooters to be used 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.
The department of transport told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it would recommend a 15.5 mph speed limit in regulations governing scooter use.
Trials will be limited to rental e-scooters while authorities gather evidence on their safety. The rules for privately owned scooters will not change, the department said.
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.
Britain's 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% of pre COVID-19 passenger numbers as lockdown eases.
London's Mayor Sadiq Khan 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.
($1 = 0.8105 pounds) (Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)