On the ground with Dott in London: Cautious but optimistic

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Dott, one of three shared e-scooter operators in London, opened up its warehouse in north London last week, revealing a glimpse into what it takes to manage a fleet of e-scooters in the capital.

Based in Haringey (which is not yet part of the London trials), the warehouse is an organised operation. They currently have around 800 e-scooters on the ground across the 250 parking spaces specified by Transport for London and the various boroughs that are taking part.

It is set to grow to the maximum currently permitted (940) soon and on the day Zag visited, more than 100 were indeed lined up, ready to go out. As other boroughs come on board during the trial – Camden in October and Hounslow shortly after (subject to confirmation) – the numbers will continue to increase. Already well over a million people in London are being served by the new sharing platform, and across the three operators, London has quickly grown since its June launch to become the joint biggest UK fleet along with Bristol.

So far, London has seen 60,000 journeys on Dott e-scooters – assuming an average of around 400 e-scooters across the 90 days since launch, that represents a utilisation of just under two journeys per scooter per day.

It’s been a cautious start, but London’s shared e-scooter fleets did launch in three disjointed areas, and the centre – Westminster and the City – was missing. Now that they are on board and Camden is arriving soon, the London offering should be much more useful for cross-borough journeys, and utilisation rates are likely to increase. (For comparison, Dott’s 5,000 scooters in Paris see 400,000 journeys a month – around 2.5 journeys per scooter per day).

London’s Dott riders scoot for an average of 21 minutes per ride, which is a relatively long time, suggesting the trips aren’t just replacing walking but are a new way to move people over significant distances. Meanwhile, 13 per cent of trips are on daily (or longer) passes rather than on a pay-per ride basis. 

It is clear that Dott is keen for more parking spaces – 94 per cent of journeys correctly end in a designated space – but the biggest hotspots for the six per cent of scooter journeys that do not end in a parking space are at the borough boundary edges, such as in Holborn where people want to take them further, but cannot.

It is notable that the mis-parking rate is double Paris’ three per cent – Dott suspects this is partly due to the London system still bedding in and users being unfamiliar with the need to finish their journeys at the marked locations, and partly because London has only a tenth of Paris’s 2,500 parking locations. 

Back at the warehouse, they are currently seeing around 10 scooters per day coming in for servicing and maintenance – an impressively low number, helped partly by the vehicles still being pretty new in London (only the latest Dott model is being used). Dott expects to get up to four years of life per scooter. 

As an additional community service, the Dott London operations team pick up any abandoned Mobikes they spot on the street. Mobike withdrew from the capital a while back, leaving its many bikes in situ to rust away, so Dott is retrieving them and disposing of them responsibly.

As a final part of the warehouse visit, Dott outlined some forthcoming innovations they will be bringing to London in due course. One is the development and testing of a special electronic noise the scooters will make, to alert passersby of the rider’s presence. The sound will be highly directional (to avoid nuisance) and will change with speed.

Dott is also talking with See Sense, makers of movement sensors, to try and more accurately detect problem junctions (where the riders make sudden speed changes) and pavement riding hotspots, to give them the data to try and adjust London’s geofence. And there is one more surprise lurking in the warehouse – a Dott e-bike. It is a prototype of a London fleet that will launch towards the end of this year. Dott is in discussions with various boroughs about this and the operating map will likely initially be different, but expect an additional option for Dott users in London.

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