E-scooters are set to appear on West Midlands streets in a trial to help get the region moving once lockdown restrictions start to be lifted.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Birmingham City Council and Coventry City Council will now work together to test the technology and better understand the benefits this form of transport could bring.
A priority for the trial will be to see how e-scooters can be safely used in public places. Until now, e-scooters can only be legally used on private property. The DfT, as part of its efforts to help ease the pressure on local public transport services during the recovery phase of COVID-19, wants to explore how e-scooters can complement existing transport options, especially for short trips.
The announcement comes as transport secretary Grant Shapps unveiled plans to boost greener, active transport and create a “new era for cycling and walking”. Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors will be created in England within weeks as part of a £250 million emergency active travel fund – the first stage of a £2 billion investment.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “The West Midlands is proud to be leading the way on future transport development, and I am pleased the Government has put its faith us in again with this new and innovative trial of e-scooters. This trial will help bring more flexibility, choice, and greener travel solutions for the region, at a time when we are facing a climate emergency and urging people to leave the car at home.
“We will also use the trial to look at the current transport challenges the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with and explore how e-scooters could be used to help tackle them. No region is better equipped than the West Midlands to test, review, and implement trials such as these at pace and scale, and that is testament to the hard work and innovation of those working in our future transport sector.”
The Government announced on 9th May that it had chosen the UK’s four Future Mobility Zones – the West Midlands, West of England Combined Authority, Portsmouth and Southampton, Derby and Nottingham – to conduct the trials.
The West Midlands was the UK’s first Future Mobility Zone and has been working on future transport solutions such as electric vehicles, very light rail and the application of enhanced digital and data services. New legislation will support the trials being held in each area and Birmingham City Council and TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), will be working with the DfT, technology providers and innovation leads to quickly get the trial up and running.
Councillor Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and transport portfolio lead for the WMCA, said: “We’ve been clear for a long time that the future of transport in this region has to be about a wide range of options and choices. The focus must be on moving people not vehicles. With a relatively young demographic profile, especially in Birmingham which has one of Europe’s youngest populations, e-scooters could be a valuable and attractive part of the solution to help people move around the West Midlands.
“We are open to transport innovation as is proven by our past – from the arrival of the railways and advent of the motor vehicle right through to the rollout and expansion of the West Midlands Metro – so we want to be at the forefront of new ideas like this that could help improve air quality in our key local centres and development areas, by providing yet another alternative to the car for short distance journeys.”
The West Midlands trial will look closely at how e-scooters are able to support connectivity between key public transport interchanges and local centres. It will also look to the use of e-scooters in other countries. E-scooters are already available to hire in cities such as Barcelona and Vienna.
Using a dock system, they can be quickly hired and transported on other forms of public transport giving people greater flexibility to travel. They can be more appealing to some users than traditional bike hire as they are more manoeuvrable and do not require as much fitness to operate.
The key aim of the trial will be to understand how e-scooters can be operated safely in an urban environment and how they can form part of an integrated transport system. The trial will also look at what types of scooters can be used to provide the best experience, how technology can support travel and safety, and what user training and advice is needed.
TfWM and Birmingham City Council will begin the planning of the trials and will be sharing further details and chosen locations as they develop.