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
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.