In a bid to regulate the burgeoning use of e-scooters, new laws have been enacted, restricting their usage to Government-approved trials in approximately 23 towns and cities across England. Notably, private e-scooters are now strictly prohibited on public roads.
Leading the way in micro-mobility initiatives, Voi Technology, a European company, oversees the e-scooter trial in Oxford, a venture funded by the Department for Transport. Commencing in Headington in 2021 with a modest fleet of 25 e-scooters, the trial has undergone three extensions and is slated to conclude in May 2024.
Effective from December 5, individuals seeking to rent an e-scooter must adhere to new legal requirements. Prospective riders are now obligated to furnish their name, driving licence number, and a photograph of the front of their driving licence to hire operators. Operators, in turn, are mandated to establish a robust system for verifying and storing this information, ready to provide it to law enforcement upon request.
The directive also stipulates the use of licence-checking software or customer service teams to validate the authenticity of all driving licences. Oxfordshire County Council emphasized that this protocol, endorsed by the Department of Transport, aims to ensure riders are well-informed about road rules, promoting responsible riding habits.
Moreover, Voi Technology, surpassing the DfT’s requisites, has taken additional measures to enhance user safety. The company has included personal accident coverage insurance for all trips, offering users motor third-party insurance. Voi has been employing Onfido, a trusted identity verification technology, to authenticate users by utilizing a photo-based identity document, a selfie, and advanced artificial intelligence algorithms.
Since its inception in 2021, Voi has witnessed remarkable growth in Oxford’s e-scooter program. What began with a modest fleet of 25 e-scooters has now expanded to over 750, catering to a substantial user base exceeding 62,000 individuals.
However, amidst the success of e-scooter initiatives, concerns have been raised by critics. Recent data from the Department for Transport reveals a concerning trend in the Thames Valley, where e-scooter collisions resulted in a nearly twofold increase in injuries over the past year. Thames Valley Police recorded 63 casualties in 2022, up from 33 in 2021 and a significant surge from 18 casualties two years prior.
In light of these statistics, authorities are cautioning against the purchase of e-scooters as Christmas presents. E-scooters remain illegal on any public highway, pavement, or in a public space, and law enforcement is prepared to seize any violators.
While the growth of e-scooter programs signifies a shift towards sustainable urban mobility, it is crucial for authorities, operators, and users alike to strike a balance between accessibility and safety. As e-scooter initiatives continue to evolve, stringent regulations and proactive safety measures will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of micro-mobility in England.