Are e-scooters the future of city transport?

A hot topic amid transport operators and city councils, the debate on e-scooters continues. Are they the future of city transport, or an accident waiting to happen?

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August 17, 2021

Getting from A to B in a city has never been limited, thanks to the widespread access of trams, trains, taxis, buses and bike hire schemes given to passengers in the majority of modern cities around the world. But one of the more up-and-coming modes of urban transport is an e-scooter - a motorised scooter powered by electrics, which is now considered a form of micro-mobility.

A big nod to sustainable transport, e-scooters are helping to tackle the reduction of carbon emissions in cities, alongside the clean air zone schemes demonstrated by cities such as London and – most recently – Birmingham.

But with all the benefits that e-scooters bring to the table, such as being an environmentally friendly way to travel and helping passengers avoid long commutes with heavy traffic, they haven’t appeared on the scene without their share of controversy. A hot topic amid transport operators and city councils, the debate on e-scooters continues. Are they the future of city transport, or an accident waiting to happen?  

E-scooters: how do they work?

Although it’s certainly not illegal to buy and own an e-scooter in the UK, it is illegal to use an e-scooter in public unless rented as part of a recognised trial scheme. So, if you fancy picking one up online and riding it around the pavements and cycle lanes yourself, you’d be breaking the law.

To be ridden on public roads, e-scooters need to follow the same rules as cars. They must have registered licence plates, working indicators, rear lights and up-to-date tax and insurance.

The only exception to these laws is the government-approved trials being carried out in 32 cities around the UK. E-scooters hired through these schemes can be picked up and ridden on roads and cycle paths, as they’re already insured by the operator.

E-scooters can travel at speeds between 15-22mph, with lower limits imposed in more built-up areas. But although e-scooters are a low-maintenance, user-friendly mode of transport that most people could easily operate, it doesn’t mean they actually can. Because regardless of how you acquire an e-scooter, whether it’s a private one for your own land or one you hire in a city as part of the government scheme, you must have a full UK driving licence.

The growing controversy of road safety

If you live in, have recently visited or you work in a UK city, you’ll likely have spotted a rise in e-scooters – and the growth of e-scooter access is showing no signs of slowing down.

While e-scooters present more opportunities for easy and sustainable transport, there are concerns about the potential risk of e-scooters causing accidents for both road traffic and pedestrians. And recent research carried out by the Compensation Experts has revealed that the public’s attitude towards e-scooters is very much split.

The report shows that 47% of Brits are doubtful about how safe e-scooters really are, while 64% of people believe that riders should have to take a test before using an e-scooter.

However, there are still very strict rules in place that prohibit dangerous use of e-scooters, which significantly reduces the risk of road accidents. With these laws in place, the perception that e-scooters can be used for ‘joyriding’ should slowly start to shift in a more positive direction.  

A big win for sustainability

On the flip side of these safety concerns is the reality that e-scooters are one of the most innovative developments of our time.

Not only can they diminish vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions compared to cars, but the rising use of e-scooters is also a route towards improving air quality. In most big cities up and down the UK, there is often a big smog problem in commuting hours, and electric scooters could contribute to combatting this.

This – combined with reduced noise pollution, low operating costs and less road traffic – e-scooters are one paving the way to more sustainable transport.

Can e-Scooters factor into our everyday journeys?

At Zipabout, e-scooters are paramount to our goal of providing passengers with personalised, no-fuss journeys. That’s why we partnered with Voi Technology, our first micro-mobility operator in our First & Last Mile feature.

Passengers using the Zipabout journey planner in cities where Voi have trials will see e-scooters listed in their personalised messaging and onward travel options. So, if you’re commuting to Birmingham New Street for work, we might suggest that taking an e-scooter from the train station to the office is the quickest, safest way to travel. It’s all about you, and the journeys you’re taking.

This level of micro-mobility has proven to be a lifeline. E-scooters are an essential part of a safe and environmentally friendly transport system, particularly for shorter journeys of 1-3 miles. As we head towards a greener and more sustainable future for our cities and towns, e-scooters will continue to play a strategic role in creating better cities for all, free of pollution and congestion.