E-scooters could revolutionise travel across the UK, from cities to the countryside
A woman rides an e-scooter in Rome, as the Italian capital emerges from lockdown | PA Images
In a post-Covid world, e-scooters could provide a new form of green connectivity. That is why the DfT have fast-tracked the Tees Valley trial to start next week
This week marks a milestone for green transport in the UK. People living in Tees Valley will be the first in the country to legally ride rental e-scooters on public roads, as part of a ground-breaking new trial.
This is the first of a number of e-scooter trials set to kick off around the country – and will see people power up on one of these clean, compact and convenient vehicles as they go about their day.
While some of us will have enjoyed using e-scooters on holiday, I’m delighted that for the first time they will be appearing on UK roads.
E-scooters offer a range of potential benefits, both for the user and for wider society.
People swapping their cars for an e-scooter for shorter journeys will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while cutting congestion and improving air quality.
They could revolutionise travel within our towns and cities – making it easier for people to access jobs, education or healthcare. They could be ideal vehicles for urban businesses, which depend on easy connections. They could also provide a boost to rural communities, where people without cars often miss out on opportunities to work or socialise. And they could be an effective mobility aid for people who otherwise find it difficult to get about.
Above all, they offer us the potential for cleaner, more efficient and more affordable travel. This is a personal priority for me – as people swapping their cars for an e-scooter for shorter journeys will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while cutting congestion and improving air quality.
As minister for the future of transport, I’m determined that we seize these benefits as we begin our nationwide recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. But as we examine whether to legalise e-scooters for the long term, we must also ensure that they are inclusive and practical for all who live in our towns, cities and more isolated locations.
Trials give us the safe environment we need to answer those questions as quickly as possible, and gather the data necessary to inform future policy.
That’s important, because while space on buses and trains is limited due to social distancing restrictions, we have an urgent need to offer people convenient transport alternatives.
But we don’t want to simply go back to how we were before the virus. Though the enforced lockdown has had a damaging impact on our communities and economy, many people across the country have noted the cleaner air, and quieter, less congested streets and town centres.
We’re already investing an unprecedented £2bn to make it easier for people to take up active travel by walking and cycling. By fast-tracking these trials of e-scooters, we hope to provide another travel option that will help prevent overcrowding on public transport as people become more mobile. The people of Tees Valley will be first to feed into those trials as they take to the streets on their rental e-scooters this week.
As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity to use the power of transport to make Britain a better place to live.
E-scooters are an exciting new form of transport, and I am greatly looking forward to trying one out for myself soon.
If legalised, they could have a big part to play in creating cleaner towns and cities, making transport more convenient, and helping us all travel in safety.
Rachel Maclean is the Conservative MP for Worcester and future of transport minister