All you need to know about e-scooters as trial begins in Bristol and Bath

  • Watch Daniel Skipp's report

E-scooters have been heralded as an answer to air pollution, noise pollution, and traffic levels - and now they have arrived in the West Country.

It is illegal to use one in public places but the Department of Transport passed new laws in 2020 to allow trials of rental scooters in parts of the country.

The decision was made to further green transport solutions and because the scooters can help with social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic by taking pressure off public transport.

Lucy Yu from Voi Technology, West of England Mayor Tim Bowles and Cllr Dine Romero with the new e-scooters at the Royal Crescent in Bath. Credit: WECA

A 12-month trial run, which began on 29 October 2020, will see the hop-on hop-off scooters available to hire in Bristol, Bath and soon in South Gloucestershire.

There is also one planned for Taunton.

It is being led by the West of England Combined Authority in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils.

Cllr Dine Romero, Leader of B&NES Council, said:  "We are committed to reducing dependence on cars by encouraging the use of low-carbon, convenient ways to travel in our towns and city.

"Many short journeys which could often be made on foot or by bike are usually made by car, so the availability of other options will help people make small changes to the way they travel."

How will the scheme run?

A rider unlocks an e-scooter by scanning a QR code. Credit: PA

A company called Voi Technology is hosting the scheme - a Swedish urban scooter firm, which currently operates in more than 50 cities in 11 countries worldwide.

There will be 100 scooters available to hire in Bristol and 50 in Bath, with more set to be introduced later if it is successful.

They will be available to unlock for £1 and cost 20p per minute.

There are also a variety of subscriptions available, as well as discounted passes for students, key workers, and those on low-incomes.

Riders can download the Voi app in the Apple App Store or Google Play and see where the scooters are located in the cities before choosing which one to hire.

There will be groups of them at key locations such as stations, university campuses, hospitals and large places of work.

What are the rules?

Riding e-scooters on the pavement is illegal. Credit: ITV West Country
  • Voi scooter riders must have a provisional driving licence and be at least 18 years old.

  • They need insurance but this will be provided by the operator

  • It is still illegal to ride a privately-owned scooter, unless on private land with the permission of the land owner.

  • 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.

  • E-scooters cannot be used on pavements or parked in a way that disrupts pedestrians or causes nuisance.

  • The Government speed limit is 12.5mph but in this trial the scooters will not exceed 10mph and will be slower in some areas until people get used to them. 

  • It is not compulsory to wear a cycle helmet but the Government advises it - and also recommends hi-vis clothing.

If you use an e-scooter illegally you could face a fine, you could get penalty points on your licence and the e-scooter could be taken away from you.

What about the safety of vulnerable people?

There are concerns that the e-scooters could become a hazard to elderly and disabled people. Credit: PA

Visually impaired people are among those who are concerned about the trial.

Sarah Gayton from the National Federation of the Blind says "There are a lot of people out there with a sight issue that do not have a white cane.

"You won't realise that they have a visual impairment and they could quite easily trip over these e-scooters, or elderly people or people with less mobility could easily trip over them."

Organisers say riders will be encouraged to use designated parking areas and there will be a team of 'ambassadors' educating users on riding and parking safely.

The scooter fleet will be monitored and staff will work with the police to ensure they are not a menace for other users.  

How far can you go?

Lucy Yu from Voi Technology demonstrates the e-scooter in Royal Victoria Park in Bath. Credit: WECA

Voi will use geofencing technology to limit access to some places. Using GPS, there will be no-ride zones and slow-speed zones for some areas. 

When a rider travels out of the operational zone, they will be blocked, and the e-scooter will slow and stop. 

For example, the speed of e-scooters can be automatically restricted to slower speeds within busy pedestrian areas.

Tim Bowles, the Mayor of the West of England said, "Please remember, each of these scooters has got the technology built into them that limits where they're actually able to be used - something that's called geofencing - and it will stop the scooter if you try to go into any of those (restricted) areas".

What about Covid-19?

All scooters are disinfected every 24 hours. Anti-viral copper tape is being tested on handlebars, which helps to stem the spread of coronavirus. 

The company is also providing COVID-19 information and advice through its app.

What happens when the 12 months is up?

If the trial is successful, it could mean electric scooters will be legalised across the country as a form of transport. READ MORE: