Are E Scooters an alternative to cars for short journeys?
If we are to avert the worst effects of the Climate Emergency, as well as reducing air pollution and congestion, we need to reduce car use. For example 60% of journeys between 1-2 miles are driven. This length of journey is perfect for cycling, though not everybody will cycle. E Scooters are also perfect for this kind of journey. Would people switch from cars to an E Scooter for short journeys? If I was going from one suburb of a city to another, like from Stirchley to Selly Oak, would people consider E Scootering this journey rather than driving? Last week I cycled through Selly Oak where I saw lots of students E Scootering about. There has been a massive increase in people using regular E Scooters (illegally) over the past year in Birmingham.
E Scooter Controversy
E Scooters are very controversial. In general they are illegal to use on the roads as there is no legal way to insure the ones that you can buy in shops. In Birmingham, a Swedish company are trialling an E Scooter rental scheme. Voi are taking care of the insurance so in order to be able to legally ride them, you need either a provisional or full driving licence. When they were first launched in Birmingham City Centre, I did try to hire one, but could not find an E Scooter that was working. Some months have passed since then. I saw that a friend had been using them. The trial has been extended to where he lives in Stirchley. We met up by where he lives so that I could have a test ride. The signing up process is relatively simple. Put your bank details in. Take a photo of your driving licence. My friend lives on a quiet road due to it being a long standing Low Traffic Neighbourhood. In theory, you can go upto 15 MPH on roads, but less than 5MPH on paths. You can ride them on roads, and cycle paths/ shared cycle or pedestrian routes. You are not allowed to ride them on pavements.
The Test Ride
Initially, the feeling of riding is quite weird as is balancing on the E Scooter. Handling takes a while to get used to. I hit a lampost after a few minutes. We rode up and down the quiet roads near to my friend’s house. With clear open spaces, the E Scooters are a lot of fun to ride. On clear, open roads I can see this as an alternative way to make 1-2 mile journeys than via car. Getting upto the top speed of 15 MPH on an empty road was easy. In order to test them in more crowded areas, we went into Cannon Hill Park. In Cannon Hill you are limited to less than 5MPH. Cannon Hill Park is usually busy and with the speed limiter on, the E Scooter felt a bit redundant. It wasn’t much faster than walking. In congested spaces the E Scooter did not feel worthwhile. The sensor on the E Scooter found it difficult to distinguish between a road and a cycle path. On Cartland Road, which is quite a busy road, the E Scooter wouldn’t start at all, but when I moved onto the path to see if it was still working. I was able to go full throttle immediately. I’m used to cycling with cars all around me on roads, which helped with using the E Scooters on roads. In the end I rode the E Scooter for 55 minutes, costing £9.60. My friend told me that I must have got a discount for the ride. 55 minutes is a long time to ride an E Scooter for.
I think there is value to E Scooters. If you want to go from Stirchley to Selly Oak, what could be a 2 mile drive, could be a 10-15 minute E Scooter journey. It would still be preferable for people to walk or cycle this journey, but E Scootering is another useful option. I don’t think many people would ride an E Scooter for nearly an hour like I did in this test ride. I reckon most people might ride one when they need to get somewhere quickly. It is much easier to park an E Scooter than it is to park a car. If you can walk out of your door, find an E scooter easily, and park it easily at the other end of a journey, it can be an attractive alternative to the car for short journeys. For me, I’ll still use my bicycle for these shorter journeys. Partly because I like riding my bike, but also because riding my bike is free, whereas a short E Scooter Journey would probably cost the same as a return bus journey. I hope that others may feel differently and will use an E Scooter instead of a car for short journeys. The more viable options non car options we have for day to day journeys, the better.