Trail e-scooter scheme coming to West of England

Images courtesy of Voi Technology Ltd.

Residents and visitors will soon be able to try a new method of transport to get around Bristol – with a 12 month e-scooter trail starting shortly.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles announced today (2 October) the name of the company which will be delivering the scheme in the region – expected to be rolled out later this month.

Voi Technology Ltd will be making hop-on hop-off e-scooters available in Bristol and Bath to help people get around central areas.

E-scooters will also be available in South Gloucestershire at other key locations such as stations, university campuses, hospitals and large employment sites.

Voi will also run a rental scheme – to allow residents to take e-scooters home or store them at work as they would a bicycle and use them for journeys on a longer-term basis.

It’s hoped this will help them get to destinations at times when bus and train capacity is limited. 

The 12-month trial is being led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) in partnership with Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, and South Gloucestershire councils. 

Privately owned e-scooters are illegal to use on roads, pavements, parks and any other areas and can only be used on private land with the landowner’s permission.

But the ones hired or leased for this trial can be used legally on roads, cycle lanes or cycle tracks. 

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “I’m really pleased to announce Voi Technology Ltd will be getting our region moving as the operator for our e-scooter trials.

“This is an exciting prospect, bringing a new, low carbon way to travel around the region, and making it accessible for every community.

“This is a real benefit for our region while social distancing is in place on public transport, but also it’s a great opportunity to understand how they might help support my longer-term sustainable transport ambitions including our transformational MetroWest rail system and regional Mass Transit…

“We are working closely with our councils and Avon & Somerset Police to ensure that e-scooters are used responsibly as part of the trial.” 

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles (left) with Alex Klimt of Voi Technology.

The exact start date for the trials is subject to discussions with VOI and authorisation from the Department of Transport – but it is expected the scheme will begin in the next few weeks.

Swedish company Voi launched Europe’s first dockless e-scooter service in 2018 – and now operates in more than 50 cities across 11 countries.

UK and Ireland General Manager, Voi Technology, Richard Corbett, said: “Our public transport system is under significant pressure as a result of COVID-19, and forward-thinking solutions are required to help keep people moving safely and sustainably during the upcoming winter period.

“To ensure the scheme gets off to a smooth start, Voi is making use of licence plates to help identify any misuse of our e-scooters, as well as investing in ambassadors on the streets to ensure that any anti-social behaviour is stopped in its tracks.

“We are committed to ensuring that the launch is equitable for all, including the blind and partially sighted.” 

WECA has been engaging with groups representing vulnerable road users –  including the RNIB and Age UK – and will continue to do so throughout the e-scooter trial.

It will also work closely with the operator, stakeholders and the public during the 12-month trial to continually review and refine how it works. 

Rental e-scooters will be capped to a maximum speed of 15.5 mph, while geofencing technology will allow slower speed restrictions to be imposed in defined areas.

These areas will be identified by working with the police, the operator and stakeholder groups such as equalities groups. VOI will be able to restrict or bar non-compliant users. 

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We are pleased to welcome Voi and e-scooters to Bristol, bringing much needed travel options alongside improvements we’re making for cycling, buses and mass transit to support people flow on major routes…

“These options are even more important as we react and recover from COVID restrictions to our public transport networks, and the investment and jobs Voi are bringing the city region are encouraging too. 

“Scooters are a great way to travel while reducing emissions, air pollution and congestion, and we will work closely with the operator and share experiences with other cities to make sure they are used responsibly and safely by those taking up the trial.”

The West of England is one of four Future Transport Zones to trial the use of innovative technologies to make it easier to find sustainable ways to travel around the region.

The following rules apply for the e-scooter trials:

  • Privately owned e-scooters remain illegal to use on roads, pavements, parks and any other areas. The only place that privately owned e-scooters can legally be used is on private land with the permission of the landowner.
  • Only e-scooters that are hired or leased through the West of England’s trial can be used legally on roads, cycle lanes or cycle tracks.  Effectively e-scooters that are part of the trial can be used wherever cycles are permitted. 
  • E-scooters cannot be used on pavements. 
  • E-scooters are classed as motorised vehicles and riders of authorised trial e-scooters must hold a full or provisional driving licence.

For more information about the e-scooter trail visit: https://travelwest.info/projects/e-scooter-trial

Government guidance for e-scooter users can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/e-scooter-trials-guidance-for-users