Having been launched in October just before the second national lockdown was announced, the West of England’s e-scooter trial can hardly be said to have begun in a favourable environment. However, despite all these challenges, it has been encouraging to see that in the first few months of the trial, there have been many successes, and we are in a position to expand the trial further.
The whole point of a trial of e-scooters is to conduct a real-world test of this new technology. By trialling the scooters, we are able to come together as a region to determine whether they can be of positive benefit to the West of England. Ways of working and getting around are constantly changing as new technology becomes available; a process accelerated through the Covid-19 pandemic which saw increased remote working and social distancing on public transport. It is only right therefore, that we make an effort to see whether new technology such as e-scooters can form a useful part of the overall transport mix, offering more choices for residents, particularly those undertaking shorter journeys.
In the first three months of the trial, over 87,200 e-scooter rides were taken by 27,000 residents, amounting to 217,000km travelled. I was particularly pleased to hear Avon and Somerset Police call the trial a ‘non-event’ in policing terms due to the high levels of responsible usage of the e-scooters by residents.
On the back of this early success, at the beginning of 2021, I gave the green-light to expand the e-scooter trials to new areas including Bishopston, St Werburghs, Easton and Bedminster in Bristol and Oldfield Park and Bathwick in Bath. This will allow us to see whether e-scooters are of use to residents who do not live and work within the city centre. This might be either as a convenient means to get into the centre, or as an alternative to get between different suburbs.
And I am now excited to go further still. This week we launched our long-term e-scooter rentals. This is available to all residents across the whole of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Provided that the scooters are used legally (on roads – never pavements), renters will have unlimited access to cost-effective and socially distanced transport, within the entire West of England Combined Authority region. They will be able to keep the scooters at home for an extended period of time, giving them more flexibility.
We are the first region in the UK to offer such a scheme to residents along with our e-scooter provider partner Voi, something that is testament to the close working relationship we have developed.
I hope that having new choices is empowering. I am looking forward to seeing how residents in suburban or more rural part of the region use their e-scooters. I hope that having the opportunity to have a long-term rental will offer both increased flexibility to travel around the region and also reduce the need for short car journeys, consequently improving air quality and reducing congestion. Alongside metrobus, our transformational MetroWest rail network and plans for a regional mass transit, we’re making it easier to get to the jobs and training opportunities that will secure our recovery.
Residents interested in signing up for a long-term rental can register on the Voi website. To be eligible for a long-term rental scooter, users need to be over 18 years old, have a valid or provisional driving licence and live in the WECA region.