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The nonsense of carbon-shaming scooters

11 November 2020

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England’s e-scooter fleet broke through the 2,000 unit mark this week, and growth looks set to continue exponentially as operators successfully navigate careful introductory phases. We released our first conference podcast, featuring transport execs from the West Midlands, Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire. Elsewhere, HumanForest’s electric bike-share operation plans to shake things up in London (and you can buy into the company), Bird brings its free rides programme to Redditch, Voi teams up with intelligent helmets and Tier’s USD $250m investment round is put under the microscope.

1: Carbon-shaming of scooters must stop

What: The number of cars is expected to quadruple in the next few decades. That UN finding has been highlighted in a blog post by ride-hail and e-scooter company, Bolt. Bolt’s own data shows that offering e-scooters leads to a real-world reduction in car use – and, as electric scooters have far smaller environmental cost in embedded and operating energy, this is a powerful way to tackle air pollution and climate change.

Why it matters: Look, we get it. Electric scooters are not made of pure cloud. As with pretty much everything else that is made and sent to a customer, there is a carbon cost. But going on and on about this seems to be a recurring thread across some mainstream press outlets. Please, for heaven’s sake, let’s get some perspective. If all car drivers tomorrow became e-scooter riders, we would unquestionably have cleaner cities. Our plea? Cyclists, pedestrians, and related advocacy groups: yes, keep pressing e-scooter manufacturers and operators towards better sustainability performance, but join them to drive the biggest change that will improve everyone’s lives: a reduction in motor vehicles. This editorial team, for one, would prefer streets full of bicycles alongside e-scooters than bicycles alongside large, dangerous, polluting motor vehicles. RR

2: The tiny town with big numbers

What: Yeovil. Population 45,000; shared e-scooter fleet 40. Yet, uptake of the Zwings shared mobility scheme is as strong as anywhere else in the UK. And some of the numbers are staggering, like the average ride time of 29 minutes over the first 12 days of the trial programme.

Why it matters: The point of these trials is for the DfT to assess whether e-scooters would be a useful addition to the transport mix across the country, and that means small towns and rural areas as well as large, densely-populated cities. Yeovil almost single-handedly shows that to be the case. Demand may drop off over winter months and as the novelty factor wears off, but the data across the UK is already crystal clear: Brits love e-scooters. The only question now is how soon can they be legalised?  RR

3: Why Tier is making the right noises

What: No, this is not a story about Tier landing USD $250m of investment this week. A different sort of noise interests us: the micromobility company has teamed up with the Thomas Pocklington Trust to introduce audio warning systems to its e-scooters in the UK.

Why it matters: Forget e-scooters on pavements, where they shouldn’t be in the first place. If they’re whizzing happily, legally and safely along the carriageway, how will people with visual impairment who are crossing the road hear them coming? The same is true of all electric vehicles and, to some extent, bicycles too. The fact the shared e-scooter sector (not even the manufacturers), led by Tier, is putting its money where its mouth is and introducing audio warning on e-scooters in 2021, springing ahead of giant car makers, shows off the micromobility sector at its best: agile, transformative, fast-moving. Well done, Tier.  RR

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