London launches e-scooter tender

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It’s here. The Big One. The Colossus. Yes, London today has launched its e-scooter trial tender competition.

Transport for London and London Councils are working together to user in a city-wide trial that will likely begin in Spring 2021 and run for 12 months. Three operators will be invited to participate.

The trial will be open to all boroughs across the capital. An official statement from TfL today does not specify how many boroughs have signed up but says: “around one third of London boroughs have expressed their intention to join the trial initially, with more considering joining at a later stage.”

“We are going ahead with this year-long trial to explore whether rented e-scooters could be a positive addition to London’s transport network, complementing walking, cycling and public transport and supporting our city-wide response to the coronavirus pandemic,” says Mayor Philip Glanville, chair of London Councils’ transport and environment committee.

Fleet sizes will be small to begin with, with each of the three operators permitted between 20 and 50 e-scooters per borough. That’s around 550 scooters per operator at launch. “Operators who demonstrate strong performance and compliance will be able to increase the number of e-scooters in their fleet over the course of the trial, whilst those who do not may have to reduce their fleet size,” says TfL.

Safety will be top of the list when it comes to selecting operators.  “Safety will be our number one priority during this e-scooter rental trial, which will be critical to providing us the data and insights we need to determine whether e-scooters are a viable part of a greener and healthier future for London,” says Michael Hurwitz, TfL’s director of transport innovation. “We’ll continue to take the interests of all Londoners into account as we work towards starting the trial next year.” 

Boroughs will be able to control their own scooter parking locations and designate slow zones, where scooters will be limited to 8mph. Scooters will be able to use cycling spaces.

“Running the trial safely is vital and operator performance will be regularly reviewed,” Glanville goes on. “All companies applying to join the trial will need to demonstrate they have plans in place to keep our streets clear and protect riders, pedestrians and other road users – including more vulnerable Londoners. We will also be looking for operators that understand London’s unique and diverse local communities and infrastructure, and can work with London Councils, TfL and individual boroughs.”

This article was updated on 17 November 2020 to clarify the number of e-scooters each operator may provide in each borough.

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Photography by

Adam Pigott / Spacesuit Media
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