Ah Cambridge. We’ve been expecting you.
Later this week (Thursday 15 October), Voi will finally begin to roll out its fleet of shared electric scooters, two months after the project was first announced. And it seems local residents are excited, with a survey by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority showing that 65% of people welcome, or are excited by, the introduction of shared e-scooters.
Fifty scooters will be made available on debut, which is significantly downscaled from original plans that set the launch fleet at 300 units. Still, Voi has the ability to scale up fast if demand proves as strong as it has elsewhere in the UK.
The e-scooters will cost £1 to unlock at 20/min to ride; discounts will be available for various groups; operating hours will be 6am to 8pm; and the scooters will be limited to 10mph.
On launch day, and weekly thereafter, Voi will run events in the town offering guidance, tips and free helmets. The micromobility operator also helped new riders with an online riding school (which is not mandatory to attend).
“Electric scooters have the power to transform the way we travel and I am delighted to be making them available in our historic City Centre so that commuters and visitors alike can enjoy quicker, healthier journeys,” said James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, in a statement. “Active transport solutions like this will become a vital part of our future public transport network; a cleaner, more efficient way to get around.”
The press statement points out: “Transport accounts for 39% of all greenhouse gas emissions across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Like other electric vehicles, e-scooters can help to limit transport emissions as well as reducing congestion in cities.”
As well as helping beat air pollution, scooters help beat Covid issues too. Riding an e-scooter is socially distanced, and occupies a much smaller physical footprint than driving a car. Voi will disinfect scooters every 24 hours and is installing copper tape on handlebars, which it says deactivates 99.98% of the virus.
Voi also says it will create 50 local jobs to support the 12-month trial.
The reduced launch fleet size is not surprising. All UK trials have been pivoting to this approach, as it helps embed scooters into local consciousness and build a base of positive experience and compliance in a way that a sudden influx of hundreds of units can’t. It’s a sensible move.
The 10mph speed limit is disappointing, however. We think it’s a good idea to limit speeds for novice riders or in shared spaces, of course. But limiting all scooters is punitive to experienced, considerate riders. If the point of e-scooters is to replace car journeys, slowing scooters down even more makes them a less attractive alternative and reduces the drive for modal shift.
It’s worse than that. By knobbling scooters with a speed limit that’s a third less than even e-bikes, the trial risks pushing e-scooters into a place where they are only used by people who would otherwise walk. That’s counterproductive to the overall aim of making healthier populations and places. We’d like to see the limits raised for experienced riders, and quickly. RR