Hire schemes for electric scooters could be one of the next urban mobility innovations to hit the UK, according to shared transport association CoMoUK.

E-scooter hire schemes already exist in other parts of the world, including the United States. They operate on similar principles to public bike hire schemes. US e-scooter app-based sharing firm Bird is running a trial on private land this month in East London.

Escooters run on battery power, with users pressing a button or using a ‘twist and go’ throttle to move at speeds of up to 15 mph.

In a briefing paper on the technology, CoMoUK says: “Unlike e-Bikes there is no docking station to plug-in to. This has created the market for ‘Juicers’ (a term used by operator Lime). These are people who find and retrieve e-scooters to recharge via their own private power supply. This is often done overnight with e-scooters returned each morning.”

‘Juicers’ use vehicles to collect the e-scooters in the evenings, and receive payment for each that they charge.

Says CoMoUK: “This unregulated market for juicers could cause problems into the future once the numbers of e-scooters increases and this puts additional vehicles on the road to collect.”

Some companies are employing people directly or sub-contracting to do the overnight recharging, it says.

In the UK electric scooters are classed as personal light electric vehicles (PLEV) and they must  comply with the Highways Act,

“However, without pedals this makes them harder to classify leaving them in a micro-mobility grey area.

“Essentially, they are banned from the public carriageway and from cycle lanes. They are permitted to be used on private land only.”

Mobility firm Bird is running a three-week pilot of e-scooter, this month in the Olympic Park at Stratford. CoMoUK describes Bird as one of the big four in free-floating mobility, along with Uber, Lyft, and Lime. It says all four are now in the e-scooter business.

“E-scooters do present some unique safety challenges,” says CoMoUK. “Principally their size and stature. They have a small wheelbase and are quiet and quick. The e-scooters have come in for criticism from transport professionals and city officials over their lack of safety precautions either on the e-scooters or their riders. Compulsory helmets have been mooted as pre-requisite for use in some instances, but this is a policy fraught with limitations with the use of publicly available helmets.

“There is a safety concern that is unique to the UK, which is how well will e-scooters ride on UK roads. The eight-inch wheels aren’t pothole-friendly, which is likely to provide some discomfort to the rider if not pose a significant danger to the rider.”

It says that if the legal barriers to their use are removed, then e-scooters should be allowed in cycle lanes.

“We would recommend a UK wide accreditation scheme for e-scooter operators like has been done successfully in the car club and bike share industry. The accreditation scheme would cover: safety features, operating practices, data sharing, customer service and ethical and environmental working practices.”

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