The UK government has announced that local authorities can apply to run 12-month e-scooter trials. There is no set number of trials that the Department for Transport (DfT) will approve, rather each will be evaluated to ensure it meets the required standard and objectives. Lessons learnt from these trials will be used by the UK government to set future legislation for micromobility in the UK.
Plans for e-scooters in the UK were accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need for socially distanced mobility solutions to get the economy moving again.
The Department for Transport has published guidelines for both local authorities and e-scooter operators, and once started, the DfT will collect data to evaluate the multiple trials that proceed.
The divisions of roles are set out as follows:
The DfT will:
coordinate and support the development of proposals, working closely with local areas
prepare and introduce the legal changes that allow trials to proceed
let and manage a contract for central monitoring and evaluation across all trial areas
provide final approval for trial proposals that meet our requirements
Local areas will:
consider their trial requirements and objectives together with those set out by the department
work openly with e-scooter operators to understand how they can meet those requirements
put in place proportionate processes to assess, select and ultimately procure services from operators
It is clear that local objectives are front and centre for the local authorities wishing to take part in the trials, while the Department for Transport has placed itself at the centre of all trials for data collection and evaluation. This raises the question of how local authorities that are responsible for selecting their e-scooter operators are to understand what is happening on their streets?
Typical issues that local authorities should be able to monitor during the trial include:
comparing the performance of operators equally (“apples to apples” service comparisons)
where are e-scooters being made available?
if scooters provide people in transport-poor areas with a viable transport option
whether scooters help offload local public transport during the coronavirus crisis
checking e-scooters are not parked where they are not allowed
planning improvements to roads and cycle paths to encourage increased usage
working with the e-scooter operator to ensure dedicated parking is provided where it is needed
understanding the impact that scooters have locally
So how can the local authority manage its trial when the DfT is collecting the data from the e-scooter operator rather than the local authority? There are two solutions already built into the DfT trial plans.
1) A subset of the data collected by the DfT can be shared with the relevant local authority. (This will not include any personal information)
2) The local authority and the e-scooter operator can come to their own data sharing arrangements in parallel to the data required to be sent to the DfT.
Anadue believes the second option has significant benefits to the local authority. The local authority and the e-scooter operator can agree what data will be shared, how often, and in what format. This can include data not collected by the DfT.
The time for local authorities to decide their trial monitoring strategy is before they select their e-scooter operator. This way, the data sharing requirements can be baked into the trial tendering process to ensure that the objectives they set in their DfT application can be monitored throughout the trial.
It is vital for the future of micromobility in the UK that these trials are a success. Local monitoring of e-scooters by the local authority is a key step to achieving acceptance of e-scooters for the long-term. We all saw the improvements to the environment from fewer car journeys during the Covid-19 lock-down. Micromobility gives us a route to making these improvements permanent.