E-scooter trial up and running

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles and Cllr Dine Romero, leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, along with Voi Technology, the UK’s leading e-scooter operator, launched the new regional scheme at Bath’s Royal Crescent.

E-scooters are now available to hire in Bath as part of a trial led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). 

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles and Cllr Dine Romero, leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, along with Voi Technology, the UK’s leading e-scooter operator, launched the new regional scheme at Bath’s Royal Crescent. 

Over the next 12 months, residents and visitors will be able to hire an e-scooter for their commute to work or for travelling around the cities. The new carbon-neutral e-scooters will also take pressure off public transport, helping people travel in a socially-distant manner and leaving their cars behind.  

The trial’s operator, Voi, will create more than 60 jobs in the region during the trial, which is being led by the Combined Authority in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: 

“With social distancing in place on public transport, our e-scooter trial is a chance for us to try a new, low carbon way to get our region moving, particularly up and down the big hills we have both Bristol and Bath. 

“Alongside metrobus, our transformational MetroWest rail network and plans for a regional mass transit, we’re making it easier to get to the jobs and training opportunities that will secure our recovery.”

Initially, there will be 100 Voi scooters available in Bristol and 50 available to hire in Bath with more set to be introduced over time. E-scooters 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. To ride a Voi e-scooter, a user must have a provisional driving licence and be at least 18 years of age. Riders can download the Voi app for free in the Apple App Store or Google Play.  

Fredrik Hjelm, co-founder and CEO of Voi Technology, said: 

“We are excited to be bringing Voi’s coral scooters to Bath and Bristol, two modern cities at the forefront of culture, science and technology. As the pandemic continues, people are looking for alternative ways to go about their journeys and Voi’s scooters are a safe, low-carbon alternative to public transport and car journeys. We can’t wait to see how residents and visitors to these great cities enjoy using Voi e-scooters.” 

Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset 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. I look forward to seeing the e-scooter trial develop as another means to help improve our air quality and health as well as encouraging people to shop local.” 

Safety first 

WECA and Voi will continue to work closely with groups representing vulnerable road users – including the RNIB, Age UK and Disabilities Move UK to ensure the needs of vulnerable groups are carefully considered during the trial. 

Tim Bowles added: “The needs of vulnerable groups in our communities have been at the forefront of my mind as we’ve been preparing our trial. That’s why we’ve been listening to representatives of those groups both nationally and West of England specific organisations like Bristol Sight Loss Council, to make sure we are giving them the confidence they need. We will be introducing e-scooters gradually across the region, working closely with Voi, our councils and Avon & Somerset Police to ensure that e-scooters are used responsibly.”  

The following key rules apply for the e-scooter trials: 

·         Privately owned e-scooters remain illegal to use on roads, pavements, parks and any other areas. The only place that privately owned e-scooters can legally be used is on private land with the permission of the landowner. 

·         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. 

·         E-scooters are classed as motorised vehicles and riders of authorised trial e-scooters must hold a full or provisional driving licence. 

·         In line with the Department for Transport’s guidance, we recommend wearing a cycle helmet when using an e-scooter. 

The trial will introduce several safety measures which exceed the UK government’s requirements, including: 

·         Initially, scooters will not exceed 10mph and will be slower in some areas. until people get used to them. 

·         Using GPS technology, there will be no-ride zones and slow-speed zones for some areas. 

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

·         All e-scooters will have clear number plates to help identify riders. 

·         Driving licence and identity checks will be required. 

·         Voi ambassadors will be present on the streets to enforce safe behaviour. 

·         Ambassadors will work with Avon and Somerset Police to restrict or ban non-compliant users. 

·         Scooters will feature copper tape on the handlebars, which reduces the risk of contamination by viruses and bacteria. 

·         All scooters will be disinfected every 24 hours, and Voi will provide COVID-19 advice and information via the Voi app. 

During the trial, Voi will hold weekly safety pop-up events where ambassadors will be on hand to answer any questions about how to use the scooters safely, as well as hand out free helmets for riders to use on their journeys. All new riders are encouraged to complete Voi’s digital e-scooter traffic school via the link #RideLikeVoila.