Londoners can legally use e-scooters on public roads next month – but only slowly. E-scooters will be limited to a maximum of 12.5mph, 3mph slower than in the rest of the UK, when rental scheme trials start on 7 June.
The schemes will only operate in a few parts of central, south and west London as the capital prioritises safety. Three operators – Tier, Lime and Dott – have been chosen by Transport for London (TfL) to run the trial service.
As well as having a lower speed limit, the scooters will also have lights permanently on, and use geofencing to prevent them being used in areas including the royal parks. Users will also have to complete a safety lesson before their first rental.
The 12-month trial will run in Canary Wharf, the City of London and boroughs including Kensington and Chelsea, Ealing, Richmond upon Thames and Hammersmith. Only about 60-120 scooters will be available in each borough at the start of the trial – a relatively small number given the intense interest from operators in winning the tender. Prices will be set by each operator.
As throughout the UK, e-scooters will be barred from pavements, and privately owned e-scooters remain illegal, despite their widespread daily use.
Helen Sharp, TfL’s e-scooter trial lead, said: “We’re doing all we can to support London’s safe and sustainable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and it’s clear that e-scooters could act as an innovative, greener alternative to car trips.
“Safety remains our number one priority and we will work closely with the e-scooter operators, London Councils and the boroughs to ensure rigorous standards are consistently met.”
Sharp said TfL was working with its independent disability advisory group “to ensure that the trial meets the needs of everybody living in, working in and visiting the trial areas”.
London is a reluctant, late adopter of e-scooters. Trials, which are already running in 30 areas of the UK, started in Tees Valley last summer. The rental schemes have not been an unqualified success, with trials paused or suspended in some regions due to widespread antisocial behaviour.
However, MPs and manufacturers have criticised the UK’s cautious approach, with most other European countries now permitting more widespread use. Last year the Commons transport select committee recommended legalising privately owned e-scooters for use on roads.