City region transport authorities are calling for a new ‘national enabling framework’ to allow councils to regulate and charge providers of e-scooter and other micromobility rental services.
In a report, the Urban Transport Group (UTG) said the new powers would give authorities the option of regulating issues such as the number of operators, the size of their fleets, their geographical coverage, the location of their parking, ‘as well as to recover reasonable costs from operators who use their roads and infrastructure’.
The report also recommends that micromobility rental scheme operators should be required to share data with authorities to support transport planning. More than 30 trials of e-scooters are taking place across England, most of which have been extended to November.
UTG chair Laura Shoaf, who is also chief executive at the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: areas represented by the organisation had enthusiastically taken part in the trials ‘as part of our wider role in exploring how new forms of mobility can bring benefits to travellers in a way that doesn’t act against the wider public interest’.
She added: ‘If e-scooters are legalised following the trials, we believe that whilst national Government should set a high bar for the safety and use of the e-scooters themselves, authorities need to have powers available to them to regulate the operation of the rental market. These powers are needed to give us the tools to act if necessary against over provision or irresponsible parking and use.
‘These powers would also allow us to find the balance that works locally between the benefits to individual users and the wider responsibility we have for public safety, for minimising congestion and for promoting modal shift.’
The UTG said its report sets out the wide-ranging risks if its recommendations are not implemented, including:
• danger to users, pedestrians and other road users from falls, collisions and other incidents
• micromobility services not complementing existing journey patterns and transport provision, limiting the capacity for modal shift
• pedestrians being unable to safely use obstructed streets and footways
• lack of data to inform transport planning
• lack of traceability of riders
• the potential for e-scooters to be used in criminal activity.
It said that while e-scooters can legally be bought outside the trials, their use on public roads, cycle ways and pavements remains illegal, but is increasingly common, adding that illegal use raises significant safety concerns, given the immense variation in e-scooter quality and safety specifications currently available.
The report ‘strongly recommends’ that the Department for Transport set robust standards for the construction (such as speed, wheel size, brakes and lighting) of e-scooters for sale as well as for their use on the road, including details of applicable offences and how these will be enforced.