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Is Micromobility the Solution to Motor Traffic?

World Car Free Day (22 September) is an initiative by Living Streets that encourages towns and cities to allow people to experience streets free of motor traffic. 

 The aim is to highlight the negative impacts of congestion and automotive traffic within urbanised areas. On average, UK road users lose 73 hours and £595 a year to congestion (£8 billion estimated annual cost to the economy). 

Cenex, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at The University of Warwick, and Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) are working to support the promotion of micromobility in order to combat some of the challenges that increased motor usage in urbanised areas brings.   

Professor Jon King, Centre Lead for DER-IC Midlands, commented: “Car Free Day is a great way to spotlight the continued issues that come with such high usage of non-EV motor vehicles. DER-IC and its partners are committed to developing solutions from the complex interplay of legislation, technology and infrastructure such as supporting advancements in micromobility.  

“Micromobility supports more active travel and can be more cost-effective than car ownership. It has been seen to increase footfall to local shops and businesses, therefore helping local economies.” 

According to the National Travel Survey, 59% of car trips in 2020 were shorter than 5 miles. While electric cars do help to lessen the environmental impact, they won’t be able to resolve these problems on their own. Along with active transport (walking and cycling), micromobility can offer a practical, accessible substitute for such brief distances, which can help reduce the amount of traffic and improve pedestrian safety.

Despite recent upward shifts in popularity following the impacts of COVID-19 on cycling and e-bikes, the UK remains behind EU countries, in particular Germany, when considering legislation for safe micromobility. However, UK Government e-scooter trials have now been live since July 2020 and primary legislation changes were announced in May 2022 as part of the Transport Bill, with the aim of safely legalising micromobility in the UK through the creation of a new vehicle category (Low Speed Zero Emission Vehicles – LZEV). 

WMG, with support from Cenex, has published ‘Micromobility: a UK Roadmap’, which proposes a regulatory framework to provide a set of standards for e-scooters, a cargo variant and other micromobility vehicles, to be operated safely, legally and inclusively in the UK under this new vehicle category.  

David Evans, Lead Engineer at WMG, University of Warwick added “The market for Powered Micromobility Vehicles (PMVs) is continuing to grow, not only in the UK but globally. These alternatives to automotive transport offer a range of benefits from reducing car-dependence and congestion to improving air quality and personal health. 

“The UK is behind in the adoption of PMVs, however, these proposals within our Roadmap for Micromobility aim to help map a vision and method for the UK to become sector leaders through appropriate legislation, development of robust UK supply chains as well as enabling and encouraging future innovation in the field.” 

The roadmap is aimed at supporting regulatory change through Parliament and proposed actions such as creating a new vehicle class in Primary legislation, therefore opening up the opportunity for new vehicle types to be created via secondary powers and ensuring the appropriate rider requirements, such as appropriate training for micromobility vehicles, is available to all. The proposals were drawn to outline and reinforce the future of micromobility in the UK, from inclusivity and accessibility to high quality vehicles and infrastructure. 

Mobility and Human Insight Manager at Cenex, Beth Morley states: “The Micromobility Roadmap, which was developed in collaboration with user groups, manufacturers, shared operations, the freight sector, and local and national Government, aims to discover a practical path forward to support the growth of the UK’s Micromobility sector.

“It is critical to remember that micromobility must be safe and inclusive in order to thrive. Legislation must be flexible because no one policy fits all vehicles and must allow for innovation.” 

Transport emissions continue to be one of the most difficult barriers to overcome in the UK’s ambitions to reach net zero by 2050. Car Free Day aims to encourage people to consider an alternative to motor vehicles. The introduction of regulations and infrastructure, suggested by WMG, Cenex and DER-IC, means that the future of micromobility could be a very real and viable solution to the current high-level usage of automotive vehicles (and associated emissions) in the UK.