E-scooters are set to appear on West Midlands streets in a ground-breaking trial to help get the region moving once lockdown restrictions start to be lifted.
The Government has chosen the West Midlands for the trial – a UK first - which if successful could revolutionise the way people travel whilst bolstering the fight against climate change.
Extra pressure is expected to be put on the region’s transport network when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions start to be lifted but people still seek to observe social distancing measures on their daily commute.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Birmingham City Council and Coventry City Council will now work together to test the technology and better understand the benefits this new form of transport could bring.
A priority for the trial will be to see how e-scooters can be safely used in public places. Until now, e-scooters can only be legally used on private property.
The Department for Transport, as part of its efforts to help ease the pressure on local public transport services during the recovery phase of Covid-19, wants to explore how e-scooters can complement existing transport options especially for short trips.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “The West Midlands is proud to be leading the way on future transport development, and I am pleased the Government has put its faith us in again with this new and innovative trial of e-scooters.
“This trial will help bring more flexibility, choice, and greener travel solutions for the region, at a time when we are facing a climate emergency and urging people to leave the car at home.
“We will also use the trial to look at the current transport challenges the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with and explore how e-scooters could be used to help tackle them.
“No region is better equipped than the West Midlands to test, review, and implement trials such as these at pace and scale, and that is testament to the hard work and innovation of those working in our future transport sector.”
The Government announced last night (Saturday May 9) it had chosen the UK’s four Future Mobility Zones – the West Midlands; West of England Combined Authority; Portsmouth and Southampton; Derby and Nottingham - to conduct the trials.
The West Midlands was the UK’s first Future Mobility Zone and has been working on future transport solutions such as electric vehicles, very light rail and the application of enhanced digital and data services.
New legislation will support the trials being held in each area and Birmingham City Council and TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will be working with the Department for Transport, technology providers and innovation leads to quickly get the trial up and running.
Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, and transport portfolio lead for the WMCA, said: "We've been clear for a long time that the future of transport in this region has to be about a wide range of options and choices. The focus must be on moving people not vehicles.
"With a relatively young demographic profile, especially in Birmingham which has one of Europe's youngest populations, e-scooters could be a valuable and attractive part of the solution to help people move around the West Midlands.
"We are open to transport innovation as is proven by our past - from the arrival of the railways and advent of the motor vehicle right through to the rollout and expansion of the West Midlands Metro - so we want to be at the forefront of new ideas like this that could help improve air quality in our key local centres and development areas, by providing yet another alternative to the car for short distance journeys."
The West Midlands trial will look closely at how e-scooters are able to support connectivity between key public transport interchanges and local centres. It will also look to the use of e-scooters in other countries.
E-scooters are already available to hire in large cities such as Barcelona and Vienna and provide a clean and efficient form of travel.
Using a dock system, they can be quickly hired and easily transported on other forms of public transport giving people greater flexibility to travel.
They can be more appealing to some users than traditional bike hire as they are more manoeuvrable and require less levels of fitness to operate.
The key aim of the trial will be to understand how e-scooters can be operated safely in an urban environment and how they can form part of an integrated transport system.
The trial will also look at what types of scooters can be used to provide the best experience, how technology can support travel and safety, and what user training and advice is needed.
TfWM and Birmingham City Council will begin the detailed planning of the trials and will be sharing further details and chosen locations as they develop.
The announcement comes as part of the Government’s plans to invest £2 billion in cycling and walking to help get Britain moving again over the coming months and encourage a new age of greener active travel solutions, encouraging people to continue the good travel habits they have developed while in lockdown.
In welcoming the announcement, Laura Shoaf, managing director of TfWM, said: “We are pleased that the Government is to invest heavily in cycling and walking, not just to support the current situation, but to provide long-term benefits and we will be working hard with our local authority partners to boost the availability of greener active travel solutions for West Midlands residents.”