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Voi calls for new e-scooter laws needed as Cambridge trial nears end

E-scooter hire company Voi is calling on the government to set a clear date for legislation to secure the future of the industry as current trials of the vehicles draw to a close.

The government granted permission for the trials with the aim of gathering information about sustainable transport and to shape future legislation around e-scooter use.

Voi want clarity on the future of e-scooter legislation. Picture: Matthew Power Photography
Voi want clarity on the future of e-scooter legislation. Picture: Matthew Power Photography

Cambridge’s trial, which was launched in October 2020, has been extended to the end of May 2024 but there is uncertainty about whether e-scooter hire schemes could continue without new legislation.

Privately-owned e-scooters are illegal to use on public roads and pavements.

Gains made by the micromobility industry could be put at risk if the government is unable to give greater clarity about when legislation will be brought forward, warned Matthew Pencharz, head of public policy for Voi UK, Ireland and Netherlands, when he appeared before the transport select committee last Wednesday (February 8).

“Almost three years after the trials were first started, the demand for e-scooters is proven with Voi alone having 21 million rides, replacing over eight million car journeys.

“However, the industry doesn’t have certainty after May next year when the trials are currently due to end.

A Voi e-scooter in Cambridge. Picture: Matthew Power Photography
A Voi e-scooter in Cambridge. Picture: Matthew Power Photography

“Legislation will allow more cities and towns to use e-scooters as a sustainable method of transport for their communities, providing a firmer footing for the industry and the jobs and investment connected with it,” he said.

Two-and-a-half years after setting up its first scheme, Voi says it has has seen nearly 1.2 million people take e-scooter rides, which it estimated had generated more than £50million across city economies in which it operates in 2022.

Voi is the largest e-scooter hire company in the UK, with experience of operating across 18 e-scooter and e-bike markets across the UK. Two out of three shared e-scooter rides are on Voi scooters across the UK trials.

The Cambridge trial has been extended three times by the Combined Authority, and had been due to expire on November 30.

A report to the authority explained that a review of the trial had been undertaken, looking at usage and survey responses from riders.

The Voi V4 e-scooter
The Voi V4 e-scooter

It said that the number of people using the Voi e-scooters had “dramatically increased” since the trial began. In October 2020, there were 461 trips on the e-scooters, rising to 95,410 in May 2022.

The report explained that safety was also looked at in a review and that 29.7 per cent of respondents to a survey said they strongly agreed that they felt safe riding the Voi e-scooters.

It added that a “minimal” percentage disagreed.

Currently, all e-scooter riders need either provisional or full driving licences.

Voi wants the government to create a new, light zero-emission vehicle category for e-scooters, which are currently subject to the same regulation as motor vehicles.

The company says e-scooters should be brought in line with e-bike regulations. This would enable insurance companies to create policies better suited to e-scooter riders, rather than the current third party liability insurance required for all motor vehicles.

The Department for Transport declined to comment.

However, the government has said when Parliamentary time allows, that it intends to introduce legislation that will create a new Low Speed Zero Emission Vehicle (LZEV) category, which is distinct from the cycle and motor vehicle categories.

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