Kickscooter rental company Voi has scored another contract in the previously closed UK market. The Swedish company has entered Liverpool on a trial basis with a fleet of 50 e-scooters, to begin with. The new project follows similar advances on the isles that so far, had mixed results.
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The trial is a joint initiative from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and the city council. The e-scooters will be for public hire, with the trial lasting a year. Plus, the city and Voi have taken precautions.
Those wanting to rent a Voi e-scooter in Liverpool must stay within the zone that stretches from the city centre to the historic waterfront and the Knowledge Quarter, to the Georgian Quarter and the Vauxhall area to the north. Initially, scooters will be available for hire from 6 AM to 8 PM, according to Voi. The top speed is limited to 10 mph and can be reduced to 5 mph depending on where you ride.
Those restrictions have their grounds in the UK only tentatively stepping onto the e-scooter trend. Supported by the Department for Transport, the Liverpool e-scooter trial is one of more than a dozen taking place across the UK. The DfT had only accelerated the introduction of e-scooter testing across the country in July to help revive the economy and transport systems after the Covid-19 shock.
Voi was ready and launched a “10,000 e-scooter trial” in the West Midlands and Northamptonshire in September reportedly. The company reports over 45,000 rides amounting to more than 98,000 kilometres travelled in the UK since.
Still, it has not always been a smooth ride. After launching in Birmingham and Coventry with Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Warwickshire on the list to follow shortly, Voi has suspended operations in Coventry for the time being.
Residents had complained and got scared over people riding on the pavement prompting the city to back away as reported in our newsletter. Voi has since reacted and said they hope to reopen soon.
To do so, the company also laid out a variety of measures including “no-ride and slow-ride zones” based on revised geofencing which appears to apply in Liverpool already. The company also said that they would be working “closely with the Council and Police to monitor the scheme and make sure that the scooters are being used safely and properly”. Voi uses so-called ambassadors on the ground to provide support to prospective riders.
They also consider introducing number plates on all scooters. “We think it is key to helping ambassadors spot rogue riders. It will also help the public to report people who ride dangerously or remove scooters from the trial zone,” says Voi.
Licence plates are not a requirement in the UK legislation, but they are in Germany. The country also underwent regulation on the go after allowing the small scooters to take to the streets earlier this year for the first time. The UK is in a similar process and will revise the new rules following the trials now taking place in many towns.
Voi also presented the Voiager 4 in August, which they claim has been further developed in terms of safety. The e-scooter comes with indicators and a higher level of connectivity and GPS technology “that enables scooters to be tracked to within one-meter accuracy”. It is unclear when these new Voi scooters will roll-out and where.
Update 10 October 2020: Another trial will begin later this month as Voi scores a deal with parts of the West of England. The hop-on-hop-off e-scooters will be available in Bristol, Bath and South Gloucestershire.
The Swedish company will provide the kickscooters for short or longer-term rental, allowing residents to take them home if they want to.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils leads the trial set for twelve months.
During that time, riders of hired and leased e-scooters can legally use them on roads, cycle lanes or cycle tracks and must hold a full or provisional driving licence. This is in line with the proposed legislation by the Transport Committee of MPs that has argued e-scooters should be legalised on roads but riding on pavements should be prohibited.
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