As part of a year-long trial in Milton Keynes, Lime is supplying 500 e-scooters for the public to use around the city centre. Around 100 scooters are available to rent as from today.
The launch of Lime e-scooters, outside the Civic Offices in central Milton Keynes, was attended by BBC Radio 1 and ITV Anglia News among other mainstream broadcasters. Some 30 of the white-and-green Lime e-scooters were present while there were already around 100 ready to go across the city. Over the next few days that will increase to 500, assuming demand matches Lime’s expectations.
It costs £1 to unlock a Lime e-scooter and then 20p/min to use, meaning a typical 10-minute journey would total £3.
Lime scooters may be new to the streets of Milton Keynes but they arrive backed by a deep well of experience. The micromobility company, formed in San Francisco in 2017, now operates in 125 cities across the US and Europe. The American operator also has a shared e-bike programme running in Milton Keynes.
The e-scooter Lime has deployed for the UK trial is the latest EU model, based on the German specification and used in cities like Paris, Stockholm and Warsaw. The Lime V3 EU will be limited to a top speed of 15.5mph (25kph), in line with the maximum permitted by the Department for Transport (DfT).
The scooter features a speedometer reading in miles-per-hour (at full chat on our test ride this morning, we hit an indicated 16mph, a nice bit of one-upmanship over the rival Spin scooter, which we could only push to an indicated 14mph).
The Lime V3 EU scooter has range of 37 miles (60km). Recharging is handled by the Lime team, who use an electric van to collect scooters in need of a top-up and return them to a local warehouse. Electricity for the scooters and vans is produced from 100% renewable sources, thanks to Octopus Energy.
Like all rental e-scooters, the Lime model is easy to use. There’s a simple thumb-press accelerator to go, a hand-operated brake for the front wheel and another brake for the back, actioned by stepping on the rear wheel guard.
In case people are unsure how to ride, or what they’re allowed to do, Lime has a free-to-attend travelling academy.
“Lime has a ‘First Ride Academy’, where we invite all new riders to come and participate free of charge,” said Florence Milner, Lime general manager for the UK and Ireland. “Firstly we get people to understand the rules of the road where they are, so in the UK that would mean things like being 18 or over, having a driving licence, and understanding that there is absolutely no pavement riding.
“We then move on to getting a feel for how you handle the scooter, so we’ll set up cones into a slalom, set up a braking-distance practice, just so people can feel confident with how to ride it.
“The final aspect is taking them on a guided ride around their town or city for real-life experience, so they can feel confident and understand things like where they should be riding, using bike lanes where possible, and understand how these schemes work.
“For every launch, we will hold a series of First Ride Academies. We also give away free helmets to make sure that everyone who comes to the academy has a helmet they can use when riding an e-scooter. All completely free of charge: we want to make sure there’s no barriers for anyone to attend those academies.”
Milner was very positive about the challenges the trial may bring. “Milton Keynes has fantastic cycle paths, so I think that’s a real benefit,” she said, “and we’re understanding how the British rules impact the scheme. The rules in the UK are incredibly robust, and it’s understanding whether they impact take-up and things like that, as that’s a new factor in this case.”
Asked whether there was a typical Lime e-scooter user, Milner said: “One of things that’s really positive about e-scooters is that we see a very broad demographic, and I think you can see that today! We had a man on his 75th birthday wanting to try an e-scooter. We see all genders and all ages giving our e-scooters a go. They fit into lots of different user experiences, whether it’s a leisure trip, or a tourist trip or for commuters and because of that you hit a wide demographic.
“In the UK, people either think they’re a cyclist or they’re not a cyclist. The great thing about e-scooters is that no-one is an ‘e-scooterer’ yet, and people don’t necessarily have preconceptions about what it is to be someone who rides an e-scooter.
“Hopefully this means we’ll see different types of people getting out of their cars onto e-scooters and the benefit with Lime is that if they also want to try an e-bike, that’s also in the same app.”
What’s next for Lime after launching in Milton Keynes?
“We’re talking to lots of towns and cities across the UK at the moment, awaiting various results and we’re really excited to be launching across the UK over the next weeks and months,” Milner went on. “This launch comes at a really important time. People are thinking now ‘How do I get back to work?’ We’re starting to see people go back to work and considering whether to get in the car. Do they feel comfortable going on a train, or is there another option?”
Milner’s answer to that was, of course, yes: electric scooters could provide an alternative. “To promote that we’ll be offering your first commute for free and we’ll be offering discounted pricing between 7am and 9:30am,” she explained. “We want to support a green recovery, post-Covid.”
Milton Keynes is an ideal place to learn more about the way e-scooters will be used, and perceived, in a British city centre. The city’s modern layout and well-defined roads, cycle paths and pavements have already enabled the use of autonomous delivery robots. This has also given the residents of the city a chance to get used to electric vehicles (although, of course, e-scooters won’t be using pavements).
Furthermore, Ford-owned micromobility operator Spin also recently touched down in the city. As of today, Spin’s orange scooters appear to be well-distributed throughout the city centre and seem to be well used by the public. A couple of examples glided past as Lime’s morning launch was getting underway.
Milton Keynes will be watched very closely to see how a multi-operator trial stacks up against the sole-operator programmes being introduced elsewhere in the country.