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Shire-folk choose scooters

16 September 2020

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The inexorable wave of micromobility washes across several shires this week as e-scooters roll into three towns in Staffordshire and Buckinghamshire; and two towns confirm scooter providers, in Yorkshire and Worcestershire. Elsewhere Essex reveals plans to run six different projects, and Coventry hiccups. It’s not quite Tolkien but it has been a busy week for electric scooters.

1: Staffordshire shoots for scooters

What: Ginger and Zwings get started in Staffordshire today under a 12-month electric scooter trial. Stafford is the latest town for Ginger’s trophy cabinet, while Zwings will be looking after Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Why it matters: With 150 scooters at launch, the Staffordshire programme is one of the country’s smallest thus far but it could well prove one of the most important.

For a start, this is a real case of David beating Goliath as Ginger picks up its fifth town; Zwings, too, will be operating in multiple towns. That’s quite some feat, given they’re directly competing with the might of the large, established US and European players.

And then there’s the fact that Zwings will allow riders 16 and up to participate, the only scheme in the country so far not to insist on an 18 certificate. This could prove invaluable in assessing whether young people would prefer scooters to other travel modes – and whether access to scooters may divert them from buying cars.

It’s going to be an interesting trial.  RR

2: We’ve been expecting you, Ginger

What: Lime and Spin now have competition in Milton Keynes in the form of Ginger, which finally got to Roundabout City this week.

Why it matters: We’ve been expecting Ginger’s arrival in Milton Keynes for a while. Spin and Lime beat the smaller operator to the punch but Ginger has been busy picking up contract wins elsewhere in the meantime.

Each of the three e-scooter providers seems to have a different take on geofencing in the town, which seems a bit potty. It might allow for some interesting comparisons but the inconsistency risks frustrating users.  RR

3: Bird roosts in Redditch

What: Bird, purveyor of world-famous black-and-white e-scooters and the godfather of the shared scooter transit model, announced its first UK trial win this week – Redditch.

Why it matters: Redditch is a small town near Birmingham. It’s not the flashy name-in-lights location that may have been expected of the two-billion-dollar Bird. But look a little more closely and the DNA of a chess grandmaster is revealed. Redditch is the hometown of Rachel Maclean MP, the transport minister overseeing the e-scooter trials. That’s not a bad way to be seen and heard in the corridors (or streets) of power.

(It won’t be the only location, either.)

Kudos, Bird.  RR

4: Ancient York adopts brand-new Tier tech

What: Tier will offer both e-scooters and e-bikes after being appointed sole operator for York’s scooter trial. The scheme is among the most affordable in the country, with scooters costing just 15p/min to hire (plus £1 to unlock), and will benefit from Tier’s just-released Four e-scooter model.

Why it matters: The German company held the global unveiling of its newest model in London, in an attempt to catch the eye of British policymakers and local authorities. It worked.

While only 100 e-scooters will be released at launch in York, Tier is one of the bigger players and can easily scale up to meet demand. And, because Tier will offer e-bikes too, residents will be given two helpings of micromobility goodness in one go.  RR

5: Putting the E into Essex (that is, electric)

What: In scooter’s version of poker, Essex has seen West Midlands’ hand and called. That is, the country has put together plans for trials in six major towns and cities, including Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Clacton-on-Sea and Colchester.

Why it matters: There are all sorts of delicious possibilities with the Essex project. While only one operator per area will be permitted, companies can bid for as many lots as they like. It’s a large-scale scheme but different enough from the West Midlands programme to offer genuine diversity, which is exactly what is needed for data collection and comparison.  RR

6: Coventry gets cold feet

What: Coventry has called time on its part in the grand West Midlands e-scooter trial – for now, at least. Despite incredible uptake over the first five days of the project, the city council has decided that more needs to be done to stop the public posing a danger to itself.

Why it matters: Voi will be disappointed to have to suspend part of its service, and the rest of the country will be watching very closely to see what happens next.

Reports of pavement riding are worrying, but if riders don’t feel safe on city streets, that must surely be a damning indictment on the lack of inclusive infrastructure in Coventry rather than shortcomings in geofencing or rider education.

We hope to see Coventry live again soon.  RR

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