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European union of scooter operators pledge allegiance to sustainability

22 July 2020

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This week, three micromobility companies join forces over sustainability commitments. Elsewhere, Lime gets the green light from the DfT; Ginger and Middlesbrough are in the firing line for not preventing teenagers riding trial e-scooters along a busy dual carriageway.

1: Justice league: e-scooter providers team up for sustainability

What: European micromobility operators Voi, Dott and Tier have jointly published a 10-point manifesto committing themselves to through-life environmental and social sustainability standards.

The strategy includes pledges covering manufacturing, operational and end-of-life procedures. Significantly, the companies have promised that all new e-scooters purchased from now on will have swappable batteries; by the end of 2020, all warehouses will be powered by renewable energy; and recharging and maintenance staff will all be switched into electric vehicles by the end of 2021.

The three operators will also join forces to help remove e-scooters abandoned in waterways.

Why it matters: As cities across the world clean up their air quality and green their transport infrastructure, they will quite rightly be holding micromobility companies to high standards of sustainability. Electric scooters will have a negative net effect on the environment and on society if they cannot be recycled, if they cannot be repaired, if they do not pay their employees fairly and if they are moved around by vehicles burning fossil fuels.

These lifecycle aspects should be among the key selection criteria when British local authorities appoint e-scooter programme operators. RR

2: Green light and green energy for Lime

What: Micromobility operator Lime has had its third generation electric scooter approved by DfT for use in the UK. The company has also cut nearly 300 tonnes of carbon since April 2019 on its shared e-bike programme by using 100% renewable energy from Octopus Energy.

Octopus supplies some 1.5million UK homes with green energy, having entered the market in 2016. Lime fields bikes and scooters in more than 120 cities in 30 countries.

Why it matters: Lime has committed itself to running all its operations with electric vehicles by 2030. That is years behind the roadmap being followed by its e-scooter competitors Voi, Dott and Tier.

But there’s little point having an all-electric fleet if that electricity is supplied by a power grid burning fossil fuels. As e-scooter trials get underway in the UK, their own environmental credentials will suddenly become make-or-break for the operators seeking to win tenders.

Which factors matter most will need to be carefully weighed by local authorities – but gaining DfT approval means that Lime can join the party. RR

3: Boys go Ginger down dual carriageway

What: Two teenagers rode Ginger electric scooters along a busy dual carriageway. They were found by police at the Teesside Retail Park after heading down the A19 trunk road.

Fifty of the e-scooters were rolled out in Middlesbrough by Ginger earlier this month, with plans to add more as the trial progresses. At the time of launch, a minimum age limit of 18 was stipulated for riders.

This was illegal and in flagrant breach of the rules and I’m pleased to see our fantastic police officers move swiftly in line with the trial rules and procedures in place. Nobody would dream of cycling or riding a skateboard on a motorway, but it would seem that there will always be some idiots that need protecting from themselves and no amount of planning can anticipate such sheer stupidity.”

Mayor Ben Houchen

Why it matters: The incident flags two concerns. First, if the scheme has been restricted to over-18s only, how are younger people able to hire the e-scooters? Second, while the e-scooters clearly have trackers which enable them to be found after the fact, why were they not prevented from venturing into unsafe environments in the first place? The technology certainly exists.

Ginger and Tees Valley have enjoyed the PR attention of being the first trial to get going in the UK. The flipside is that the spotlight is just as bright when unwanted and unexpected behaviour arrive – and other local authorities should now asking hard questions of their own e-scooter operators as a result. RR

4: Google Maps adds seamless bike-share navigation

What: Google can now combine walking and bike share instructions in the same journey.

A single set of Google Maps journey directions can now guide a user to their nearest rental bike-share dock, offer turn-by-turn navigation to an available dock closest to their final destination, and then provide instructions for completing the final leg.

Real-time bike-share station availability is included, while Google will also helpfully point out which micromobility apps need to be downloaded to complete the journey.

This combined active travel feature is available first in just 10 cities – and London is on the list.

Google also wants to hear from local authorities about new cycle lanes.

What it matters: The easier it is for users to incorporate bike-share in their journey planning, and the easier it is for them to see in advance where they can pick and return bikes, the more likely they will be to use these systems.

For cities, ensuring that their bike-share systems are up to scratch – or exist – takes on new urgency now that they will be highlighted by Google. RR

5: National Cycle Network heavily pruned to improve accessibility

What: Thousands of miles of walking and cycling routes have been cut from the UK-wide National Cycle Network. The changes have been made following a review by the charity Sustrans.

The move follows a 2018 review by Sustrans, the charity that created the NCN, which found that 42% of the network’s routes were “poor”, with substandard crossings, signage or main road sections, and 4% “very poor”, taking cyclists on roads with heavy traffic. In addition, urban roads with speed limits in excess of 20mph and rural roads faster than 40mph are being taken out of the network.

Almost 19% of the network will now be designated for experienced cyclists only, and 4.5% (753 miles) of busy on-road sections will have all signage removed.

Sustrans chief executive officer, Xavier Brice, said the review forms part of a strategy called Paths for Everyone, and what will remain is a mostly low-traffic or traffic-free network that is well-surfaced, clearly signed and accessible to all who cycle and walk.

Why it matters: The National Cycle Network is intended to connect towns, cities and countryside with accessible, comfortable and safe routes.

Sustrans estimates that 4.4 million people used the network in 2017-18 to make 786 million walking and cycling trips. This is not small change and the supporting infrastructure needs to be fit for purpose if the UK really wants to move away from car- and carbon-dependence.

If the result of these changes is that all sorts of people can use the entire network confidently, that can only be a good thing – and those users will become the best advocates for expansion in time. RR

6: Beryl adds electric bikes to Watford fleet

What: Beryl has added 25 e-bikes to its public bike share fleet in Watford, with another 75 of the pedal-assisted machines arriving in the near future. These are in addition to the 200 conventional bicycles already provided by Beryl.

The e-Bike can be differentiated from the conventional bicycles through an electrified symbol visible on the bike and bay icons in-app. The remaining range of the e-Bike will also be displayed in-app ahead of hiring the bike so riders can confirm the battery will last throughout their journey.

Why it matters: Beryl’s e-bikes are twice the price to rent compared to their conventional counterparts (based on the pay-as-you-go minute tariff). Having both on offer provides a golden opportunity to assess whether or not users are willing to shell out for the ease that electric-assist brings, or whether they’d prefer to stick with conventional, cheaper pedal power. RR

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