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Local policy and strategy essential to maximise e-scooter benefits

Local authorities need to take an active role in the deployment of e-scooters within cities in order to maximise their benefits, concludes a report from Cenex.

E-scooters are a low emission solution for first and last mile travel that are inclusive and sustainable, and can reduce congestion, improve city-centre journey times and produce less CO2 compared to alternative transport methods, but concerns can arise over safety if implementation is poorly planned.

In the UK, 58% of car journeys are less than 5 miles (in urban environments 69% of car journeys are less than 3 miles) while congestion causes an average of 178 lost hours per year in the UK and an associated cost of £8 billion. This presents a clear opportunity for e-scooters to replace car journeys within cities and help ease congestion; Cenex calculates that e-scooter journeys can reduce CO2 emissions by between 66-90% when they replace car travel in cities.

The report, titled ‘E-scooters – Maximising the benefits of e-scooter deployment in cities’ and released today for the Climate-KIC funded SuSMo project, analyses the impact of e-scooter deployment in several European cities and the key considerations that need to be looked at to maximise the benefits from both environmental and social perspectives.

Citing Sofia, Bulgaria, as an example of good practice, the report details the steps taken to control e-scooter numbers and provide parking provisions — over 200 car parking spaces were reallocated for bicycles, mopeds, and e-scooters to support alternative modes to car travel — in turn enabling sustainable growth of the e-scooter market without negative impacts.

However, without appropriate implementation, management, and regulation, Cenex warns that e-scooters can disrupt the transport network, and the city as a whole, in a negative way. Deploying e-scooters before developing policy or legislation has led to safety concerns and street clutter in other European cities, as seen in Paris, France, where initially there was no control over the market. The streets became littered with vehicles, considered by many as an eyesore, along with an increasing number of accidents involving both pedestrians and other road users.

As a result, local authorities are encouraged to cooperate with private operators from the start to effectively integrate e-scooters into a transport system where they complement active travel and public transport rather than compete against them. Knowledge of the local area should also be shared to identify key sites for deployment that will ensure a high proportion of car journeys are replaced, such as at bus and train stations, universities, and tourist attractions.

David Philipson, Transport Technical Specialist at Cenex, said:

“Through openness, planning and regulation, e-scooters represent a large piece of the puzzle in decarbonising urban transport, and the lessons learnt from e-scooter deployment can help prepare cities for future transport innovations.

“It is evident that e-scooters are here to stay, with operators committed to continual improvements for the benefit of both the environment and society. Though still in its infancy as an industry, e-scooters are already providing a genuine, affordable, green solution to private car use in city centres which will only improve over time.

“Local authorities need to take an active role in the deployment of e-scooters in their regions, setting out regulations for operators in order to ensure that e-scooters meet both their ambitions and their citizens’ needs.”