For a city that likes to position itself as a world leader, London has been dragging its feet in the e-scooter sector. The controversy involves an electric scooter being classified as a Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), and in so much they're considered motor vehicles and are subject to all the same legal requirements - MOT, tax, and licensing.
Is that to say that there's not a day that goes by when you can see them zipping around the Big Smoke? Absolutely not.
Well that's all about the change, to a degree, for as of June 7 Amsterdam-based Dott, US-based Lime, and Berlin-based TIER (who we profiled yesterday) have been selected as participants in a year-long trial of an e-scooter rental programme. And you're not the first one who's wondering, "Where's Voi?" Fear not, they'll be operating in the rest of the UK, but for one reason or another, they were passed over for the London trial. The same for Bird, the only active e-scooter trial in London, at the Olympic Park
Not all fun and games
In an ideal world, we'd all be able to just open an app, find an e-scooter, rent it, and be zipping away. Not so much in London. In order to rent a Dott, Lime, or Tier, riders must first have a UK driver's license (full or provisional), and upon downloading one, or all three, of the operator's apps, a safety course must be completed. I can't imagine this will be too strenuous, but still slowing the process.
And speaking of slow, while the rest of the UK has a 15.5mph/24.9kph speed cap, London is slowing things down to 12.5mph/19.3kph. The London e-scooters will be permitted on roadways and bicycle lanes, but not sidewalks. Personally, as a heavy cyclist, I am already anticipating an increase in collisions, as e-scooter riders are often oblivious to the cyclists around them, or, better yet, listening to music and can't hear a thing.
Ride it where? Park it how?
In another, ungh, if you envisage zipping off to a location outside of, essentially, central London, forget about it. The trial restricts riders to Richmond upon Thames, Chelsea and Kensington, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Canary Wharf, and the City of London.
In an effort to keep things clean and tidy, the aforementioned boroughs will create designated parking zones for the e-scooters, with operators responsible for returning any vehicles left in locations otherwise. In other words, the city and the operator want you to house the e-scooters in a specific spot, but as the vast majority of us have all seen with e-bicycles, they're oft to be found anywhere and everywhere. No word yet on whether operators will impose a fine or allow a rental to end if the e-scooter is not returned to a designated parking spot.
Mind the Gap
While it's a big win for Dott, Lime, and TIER, private e-scooters will still remain banned. One can only hope that the trial goes well, e-scooters become a boom for London, and private owners can soon enjoy the same benefits as those who pay-to-play, and not fear the numerous police sting operations I've personally witnessed.
A hands-on review by your author is already in the works. Updates to follow.