E-scooters to rent are expected to be on the streets of London from next spring after the capital gave the go-ahead for trials. Up to three firms will be permitted to operate hire schemes, which are likely to start as small-scale operations in a limited number of boroughs.
Transport for London said the trials were part of plans to encourage greener forms of transport and, in particular, to avoid a “damaging, car-led recovery from coronavirus”, with road congestion already approaching pre-crisis levels.
Privately owned scooters will remain illegal in public, although they are already widely in use, unauthorised, on London roads.
TfL said that participating boroughs would regulate the parking of e-scooters to avoid clutter, and could enforce “slow zones”, where the speed would be limited to just 8mph rather than the normal maximum of 15mph. E-scooters would be allowed to use roads and bicycle lanes, but not pavements.
Other UK cities have already started trials, with mixed results, after the Department for Transport gave the green light in the summer. E-scooter firms have been eagerly awaiting the go-ahead in London, as potentially one of the biggest global markets, with the likes of Lime, Bird, Tier and Voi vying to win contracts.
TfL and London boroughs said they would “start cautiously”, with a trial of 60 to 150 e-scooters in each borough, and safety would be the first priority.
Michael Hurwitz, TfL’s director of transport innovation, said: “We’re determined to make sure that London recovers from coronavirus as safely and sustainably as possible and are supportive of innovative solutions that could help.”
Philip Glanville, mayor of the London borough of Hackney and chairman of London councils’ transport and environment committee, said the year-long trial would determine if e-scooters could be a positive addition to the transport network. “All companies applying to join the trial will need to demonstrate they have plans in place to keep our streets clear and protect riders, pedestrians and other road users, including more vulnerable Londoners,” he said.