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UK’s first electric bike and e-scooter trial coming to Cambridge

Electric bikes and e-scooters will be available to hire in Cambridge by September in a national first.

A 12-month trial will be run to test their popularity, safety and suitability as a way of reducing pollution and congestion.

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

It will cost £1 to unlock a ride, then 20p a minute, and subscriptions of £10 a day or £40 a month will be available. Subsidised passes of £10 per month will be offered to low income groups.

Swedish-founded micro-mobility company Voi Technology has been appointed by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to run the trial, which will create 50 jobs.

It will make the city the first in the country where both public e-bikes and e-scooters have been rolled out to the public. They will feature ‘self-cleaning’ handlebars to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Work to anticipate the likely demand and areas where the vehicles will have most impact is ongoing.

But electrically assisted bikes are expected to be placed at rail stations and Park & RIde sites, and may also be available at stops along the guided busway to help commuters get to work, or aid students, visitors and residents.

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

Voi said it would be bringing “hundreds” of its distinctive coral e-scooters to Cambridge, and has the potential to bring 2,000 to the region. The Combined Authority said the city’s initial “small scale” trial will be monitored for the first three months, after which Voi will make recommendations to the Combined Authority on the next steps and any infrastructure requirements.

Key workers are expected to get free rides, while businesses will be supported to offer, or extend, delivery services.

Rental e-scooters have been allowed on British roads since July 4, 2020. Legislation was rushed through Parliament recently to provide green alternatives to cars and buses in post-lockdown Britain.

Middlesbrough was the first city to trial e-scooters, with the company Ginger providing 50.

But there were concerns there after two teenagers were seen taking the 12mph vehicles for a ride on the A19, which has a 70mph limit, and reports that young users were taking them through shopping centres, upsetting elderly shoppers.

But with about 60 per cent of car journeys thought to be one to three miles in length, it is argued that e-scooters are ideal for people making quick, short journeys across the city,

Mayor James Palmer said: “Electric bikes and scooters have the potential to revolutionise travel and I am delighted that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will be the first region in the country to make both available to the public so they can enjoy quicker, healthier journeys.

Mayor James Palmer tries out an e-scooter
Mayor James Palmer tries out an e-scooter

“This year has seen a 27 per cent drop in carbon emissions and a 200 per cent increase in cycling, with people enjoying soaring air quality and fitter lifestyles, the benefits to moving away from cars and buses are clear and our investment shows we are committed to rolling out a fully integrated active travel network for our region.”

Fredrik Hjelm, co-founder and CEO of Voi Technology, said: “We are delighted to announce that Cambridge, the world’s most renowned city for innovation and technology, will be the first city in the UK where people can use a Voi e-scooter and enjoy the benefits of this liberating new form of transport.

“People are keen to get out of their cars and want greener transport choices. Cities that are serious about cutting pollution and congestion see that this is a huge opportunity to introduce a mode of transport that can radically improve how we get around urban areas.”

Riders must wear helmets, are told to stay on bike paths or close to the kerb, not to block paths and not to drink alcohol before using the vehicles.

Voi creates zones in each city it operates, visible via its app. Travel outside one and the e-scooter will stop working. Other zones show where it is safe to park, or where parking or riding is forbidden, with free credits earned for parking in designated spots called Voi Hubs.

E-scooters are designed to be ridden by one person at a time only.

User feedback and journey data from the Cambridge trial of the vehicles, including the views of disability group associations such as RNIB and Disabilities Move UK, will be used by Voi in forming its recommendations to the Combined Authority.

The trial is predicted to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 400 tonnes by August 2021.

The Combined Authority points to the average 106 deaths per year in the Greater Cambridge region alone that are attributed to air pollution as a powerful motivator for the scheme.

It says emissions from cars and per person are 50 per cent above the national average in Cambridgeshire - and points out that electric bikes, although offering assistance to riders, can help improve people’s fitness too.

It argues that the vehicles will also help in the fight against Covid-19, by aiding social distancing in a way that is harder on public transport.

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

Voi said it would use Shieldex Copper-Tape on handlebars, which has been shown to kill 99.98 per cent of coronaviruses in minutes. All scooters will be disinfected every 24 hours, while Covid-19 information and advice will also be provided in Voi’s app.

Under the deal, Voi has committed to:

  • integrate with East Coast rail operator LNER and with bus operators;
  • launch #RidewithVoila, an online traffic school, for local riders, with incentives to encourage riders to take a course before they ride
  • provide safety pop-ups and helmets at launch events
  • offer subsidised Voi-4-All Passes for low income groups at £10 per month

It will also integrate with iomob, a decentralised blockchain-based technology platform that enable users to discover, book and pay for a range of mobility services, such as bikes and taxis, from different providers in one app. The Barcelona-based smart city start-up has been chosen as the preferred partner.

Voi says more than 50 councils and regional authorities are working on e-scooter pilots, with Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Milton Keynes and Southampton also among the first to express interest.

“We can’t wait to get started in Cambridgeshire which has some of the best cycling infrastructure in the UK, making it an ideal location to launch this revolutionary transport,” said Mr Hjelm.

“We are seeing the biggest change in the way people travel in a hundred years and Voi is here to help the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority bring about this huge shift in culture and travel habits, to the benefit of both cities and their residents.”

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

The company, said to be the fastest-growing pan-European micro mobility start-up, has five million registered users and has reached 20 million rides,.

Richard Corbett, UK GM of Voi Technology, said: “As normal life resumes across the UK and people return to workplaces and shops, the need for quick, convenient and Covid-safe transport is increasing.

“Cars no longer suit the way we live now. Sixty per cent of car journeys in the UK are between one to three miles, significantly adding to congestion. We estimate that one in five of these journeys across the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region could be replaced by low-carbon e-scooters with a minimum 24-month lifespan. E-scooters provide a compelling alternative that will outrun the car.”

Voi is now live in more than 45 cities in 11 countries.

Visit https://www.voiscooters.com/ or download the app.

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

About Voi’s e-scooters

  • Voi launched Europe’s first dockless e-scooter service in Stockholm in summer 2018.
  • It created the first third-party accredited E-scooter traffic School, which has trained more than 400,000 riders to date.
  • It is rolling out Europe’s first self-cleaning handlebars.
  • As of January 2020, Voi became the first in the industry to deliver a carbon neutral service
  • Its life cycle analysis shows Voi scooters last more than two years, with carbon emissions as low as 35g per driven kilometre.
  • It was the first operator to use swappable batteries
  • Proprietary Internet of Things technology developed in Sweden is used to prove “sub-metre geolocation accuracy”.

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