As the demand for micro-mobility has been surging amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Londoners have also embraced e-scooters as an alternative form of transport. In early 2021, the city is expected to host the UK’s biggest e-scooter rental trial; with thousands of the two-wheeled vehicles hitting the streets of London.
Transport for London (TfL) unveiled their plan for the UK’s biggest e-scooter rental trial in late November. The twelve-month trial means e-scooters will be able to be used on roads and cycle lanes, but not on pavements or public walkways.
Although it is now illegal to ride e-scooters on public roads, with riders at risk of facing a £300 fixed penalty notice, many Londoners have confidence in e-scooters as a genuine means of transportation. “I just find it as an easier way to get around, more practical, you don’t have to wait around, you are saving money, you are saving the planet as well” said Benjamin, an e-scooter owner.
Benjamin is among thousands of Londoners using e-scooters. According to Pure Electric – a company offering specialists in electric micro-mobility – its monthly volume sales reached 2000 to 3000 e-scooters. Their revenue has witnessed a record high since Covid-19 kicked in.
Pure Electric salesman Shane Mimer said: “We started with just one store here and throughout the Covid-19, many stores have been opened across the country.”
Describing e-scooters as an alternative solution to public transport, which many are trying to avoid at this time, he added: “People don’t really buy it just for fun, not as much. At least in London people are trying to get around especially because of Covid, people don’t want to take the train”.
While TfL gives the go-ahead for e-scooters, many question the safety of riding them on the streets. It took Micah Richmond three weeks before he decided to buy his first e-scooter. Since e-scooters are small and quiet, he was afraid that they might not be visible to heavy goods vehicles and buses whilst riding on the main roads. “And the break, if you pull it too hard, you might fall off so it will not be too safe,” he said.
Others expressed their suspicions as the trial is “the government’s scheme to raise money.” Benjamin said: “It’s like a bike for me or an electric bike at least so I don’t see what’s the differences. I just think it’s a money making scheme. I am not against a trial but I think they should make them legal anyways without the trial.”
Despite having mixed opinions on the upcoming trial, the e-scooter is highly considered as the future of urban commutation in the context of a global pandemic and the rising costs of public transportation. At a maximum speed of around 15mph – which is slower than that of the average rider of a pedal bike – such specifications are to ensure road safety once the rental trials kick off in early 2021.