Elec­tric scoot­ers to be al­lowed on UK city streets

Bris­tol, Cam­bridge and Ox­ford could be first to have pow­ered hire ser­vice once law is changed

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By James Cook

AN elec­tric scooter com­pany is to launch its hire ser­vice in cities across the coun­try af­ter the Depart­ment for Trans­port sug­gested it is open to a change in the law, which cur­rently bans such means of trans­port. Bird is in talks with Bris­tol City Coun­cil and is also keen to ex­pand to Ox­ford and Cam­bridge, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments re­leased by the Depart­ment for Trans­port (DFT).

Bird, a Us-based busi­ness, an­tic­i­pates a change in Bri­tain’s trans­port laws which cur­rently block the ser­vice from op­er­at­ing in the UK.

Elec­tric scooter com­pa­nies are un­able to op­er­ate on pub­lic high­ways be­cause of an­ti­quated trans­port laws, in­clud­ing the High­way Act 1835. How­ever, com­pa­nies like Bird and ri­val elec­tric scooter busi­ness Lime are hop­ing the Gov­ern­ment will re­lax the rules and al­low them to op­er­ate on Bri­tish roads. The scoot­ers are al­ready used in many US and Euro­pean cities in­clud­ing San Fran­cisco, Paris and Madrid.

A DFT source said the depart­ment con­sid­ers elec­tric scoot­ers an “in­ter­est­ing idea” that could help “get peo­ple out of cars”. Bird plans to ex­pand across the UK once the laws are changed.

A spokesman for Bris­tol City Coun­cil said: “We are due to have ini­tial meet­ings in the new year with Bird to look at their scoot­ers and dis­cuss how they might fit in as one of the sus­tain­able trans­port op­tions in Bris­tol.”

The hand­writ­ten notes of a meet­ing be­tween the DFT pub­lic pol­icy team and Bird in Au­gust show that the elec­tric scooter busi­ness is par­tic­u­larly keen to de­ploy its scoot­ers in Ox­ford and Cam­bridge be­cause of their strong cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture.

A Bird spokesman said yesterday: “We be­lieve by giv­ing peo­ple an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly al­ter­na­tive to the car, Bird can help cities cut congestion and im­prove air qual­ity. We’ve had ex­ploratory con­ver­sa­tions with cities but will not launch on pub­lic roads be­fore we are legally able to do so.”

It is cur­rently il­le­gal to ride a pow­ered scooter on pub­lic roads and pave­ments in the UK. Any­one caught do­ing so faces a fine of £300 and six points on their driv­ing li­cence.

The seven-page DFT doc­u­ment called a change in trans­port laws “es­sen­tial” for the coun­try. “This is vi­tally im­por­tant to en­sure that the UK does not fall be­hind other global in­no­va­tion cen­tres and that the UK Gov­ern­ment can con­tinue to meet its tar­gets to re­duce air pol­lu­tion,” Bird ex­ec­u­tives wrote in the doc­u­ment.

A spokesman for the Depart­ment for Trans­port said it is “ex­plor­ing how new tech­nolo­gies will help the UK ben­e­fit from changes in how peo­ple, goods and ser­vices move around”.

Ri­val elec­tric scooter com­pany Lime is also look­ing to ex­pand, but has in­stead launched an elec­tric bi­cy­cle ser­vice in Lon­don and Mil­ton Keynes.

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