Rental e-scooters will be legal on UK roads

LONDON • Rental e-scooters will become legal on UK roads from July 4 after the government published the rules companies must follow to deploy the electric vehicles.

Large-scale trials can start at the weekend and last for a year, the Department for Transport said in a statement on Tuesday. It will closely monitor activity and public feedback with a view to fully legalising scooters in future. Privately owned models will remain illegal during this period, it said.

The UK has lagged the world in allowing e-scooters to operate legally on its roads, with some restrictive laws dating back to 1835. That’s not stopped them becoming a familiar sight in Lon- don and other big cities, raising the pressure on the government to establish a regulatory framework for their safe use.

“As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way that could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities,” said Transport Minister Rachel Maclean.

Many of the world’s biggest e-scooter rental companies now plan to roll out fleets across the UK, including Sweden’s Voi Scooters, Germany’s Tier, and Bird and Lime of the US.

It’s particularly good news for Bird and Lime, which have run into trouble this year as their unprofitable business models were strained by the pandemic that kept customers stuck at home. Both had to drastically reduce their fleets, cut hundreds of jobs and seek emergency funding, in a blow to venture capitalists who invested more than US$1 billion (RM4.29 billion) in the companies.

Alan Clarke, Lime’s UK director of policy, said Tuesday’s announcement “presents a real opportunity for change”.

Roger Hassan, COO of Tier, said “we already have more than 1,000 of our industry-leading scooters in our UK warehouse ready to be deployed”.

The head of Voi in the UK, Richard Corbett, previously ran Bird’s business in the country. He said on Tuesday that Voi hopes to have its first pilot up and running in weeks.

The government said last year it was contemplating a loosening of legislation on e-scooters as it had become a barrier to innovation. — Bloomberg