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Launch, launch, launch: e-scooter trials begin in five towns

26 August 2020

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Much ado about micromobility in the UK this week, including: Spin and Lime go live in Milton Keynes; Ginger heads to Hartlepool and Redcar; Voi springs an early morning surprise with Northampton and Kettering; Tier’s London bash; and Beryl announces a tri-modal programme for Norwich. Phew.

1: Spin and Lime roll out in Milton Keynes

What: Micromobility giants Spin and Lime began to deploy their electric scooter fleets in Milton Keynes this week. Spin went first, placing 25 on the streets on Saturday in low-key fashion. Lime got going today, with 100 available on day one and much more media fanfare.

Why it matters: Milton Keynes is the UK’s first multi-operator trial; the town plans to have three operators, all with permission to scale up to 500 scooters each. Spin and Lime both have the experience, technology and finances to make a success of the trial – but can the town support two, let alone three, competing operators sustainably? It will be an intriguing test.  RR

2: Hartlepool and Redcar go Ginger

What: British micromobility operator Ginger has expanded its Tees Valley trial. The programme was the first in the UK to go live when Ginger scooter rolled out in Middlesbrough in July. Now, Hartlepool and Redcar have been added.

“There are two Ginger hubs each in Hartlepool and Redcar,” said Zag’s Oliver O’Brien on the day. “By manual count, I estimate 10 e-scooters have been rolled out today in Redcar and 15 to 20 in Hartlepool.” 

Perhaps more important, Ginger has now added a driving licence verification feature to its app. This step should help prevent underage riders.

Why it matters: We’re pleased to see Ginger weathering the storm and battling through. It’s not been an easy ride so far for the British operator, nor an easy location, but the small team is making headway with some of the issues they’ve run into so far. And as far as DfT trials go, the more data and models tried out over the trial period, the better able we are to shape tomorrow’s legislation.  RR

3: Voi begins its British invasion

What: Voi has launched its first tranche of e-scooters in Northamptonshire. At least 200 machines were made available in Northampton and Kettering. Voi’s system is dockless, costs £1 to unlock at 20p/min to ride, and is set to create 50 local jobs. They are the first Voi scooters on Britain’s streets with many more towns to come.

The operator also announced details of a new e-scooter this week.

Why it matters: The Swedish scooter operator has sprinkled some sort of secret sauce over its service offering and has wrapped up more contracts to date than any other operator.

Voi is not Northampton’s first experience of shared micromobility. The town had a long-running but small-scale and little-used bikeshare system, Cycle CoNNect. The dock-based service ran from the summer of 2014 with local authority funding for the first three years. In September 2019, after just two years of commercial operation, it was shut down. Vandalism was a factor but chronic lack of use was the killer.

The town’s e-scooter operation is on a much larger scale and has the potential to transform Northampton’s travel options, so we hope it won’t suffer the same fate.

Voi has an excellent map in its app. The map clearly and effectively shows operating areas, no-go zones, slow zones and hubs, using relevant colours – a simple bit of visualisation that many of its peers don’t manage. Knowing where they can (and can’t) go is essential for shared micromobility users. It is the best map in an operator’s user app I have seen so far for e-scooter sharing or bike-share.  OOB

4: Tier travels to Tower Bridge to unveil new scooter and charging system

What: Tier chose London as the venue for the global launch of its newest e-scooter. With Tower Bridge directly adjacent to the test ride area and the Walkie Talkie building in frame across the river,  the German scooter company was not being shy in wooing micromobility’s newest market.

The new scooter features user-swappable batteries; shops and cafes can sign up to host the “Powerbox” battery charging stations free of charge. Suspension, an on-board helmet box and indicators built into the handlebars are other notable introductions.

Why it matters: As London dillydallies over a possible e-scooter trial, Tier is wasting no time advertising its wares to a UK market. It’s a canny move by the Berlin-based company.

But there’s substance to back up the style. Rider visibility in the darkness of British winter afternoons is going to be key for safety and adding indicators is a bold step forwards. Shifting responsibility for swapping batteries to riders, and making it a localised system, could vastly reduce the carbon footprint of Tier’s recharging operations; it could also drive up footfall into local businesses.

Tier is likely to win at least one UK trial so these innovations are likely to see service in the UK. RR

5: Beryl’s world-beating multi-modal plans

What: British bike-share company Beryl is adding e-scooters to the mix in a world-first. The company already offers both conventional bicycles and e-bikes and will now add electric scooters to its scheme in Norwich.

Why it matters: Properly assessing how e-scooters can add to the transport mix will include analysing whether the new riders are people who would otherwise cycle or hire an e-bike. Influencing factors will include locations of units, pricing and weather conditions. By offering all three modes of transport in one place and from a single provider, Beryl is perfectly placed to offer solid data on how people really want to travel. Brilliant move, Beryl.  RR

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