An influential regional transport body has suggested a regulatory framework for micromobility, such as e-scooters, based on the features of the individual vehicle.
In response to the recent Government consultation on micromobility and Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which could fast-track the legal use of e-scooters on public roads, Transport for the South East (TfSE) laid out a potential regulatory structure.
The sub-national transport body (STB) said a structure based on the vehicle's features 'would be more appropriate and more easily communicable than one based on vehicle type'.
This approach could be formulated as follows:
- If the vehicle has no handlebars or seat, it should not to be used on the public highway (including pavements and footways), but could be used on shared use paths or off-road segregated cycle lanes (This would exclude hoverboards and e-skateboards from the public highway).
- If the vehicle has handlebars only and no seat, it should be allowed on both on and off-road cycle lanes, shared use paths and roads with up to 30mph speed limit (this would allow Segways and light e-scooters to be used on roads up to a 30mph speed limit in urban areas)
- If the vehicle has handlebars and a seat, its use should be permitted anywhere where pedal cycles are permitted (This would allow 'heavier' e-scooters with higher spec and build quality and electrically assisted cycle trailers and ecargo bikes to be used in a wider range of settings).
TfSE also called for guidelines that advise micromobility users to go through registration, wear helmets and buy insurance.
It suggested the following guidelines:
- Approval – mandatory spot and/or sample testing with regulation on minimum vehicle maintenance standards and frequency.
- Registration – users should complete training before being able to use the vehicles, or holders of other licence categories should be able to use the vehicles. Registering of vehicles to be encouraged on a voluntary basis.
- Taxation – should not be required.
- Insurance – encourage users to have personal liability insurance on voluntary basis.
- Helmet use – use of pedal cycle standard helmet should be left at users’ discretion but highly recommended.
- Speed limiting – should have a speed limit of less than 15mph with a recommendation that 12.5mph is used (as per Berlin), by limiting the design speed of micromobility devices.
- Age limits – should have minimum age limit of 16 (as per mopeds and Barcelona scheme). 'We consider 14 (as per EAPCs) to be too young.'
It added: 'Given that to ride e-scooters safely, the user needs to have both hands on the handlebars for balance, there needs to be some means to indicate to drivers, other road users and pedestrians that they are about to make a turning manoeuvre.'
TfSE was broadly supportive of micromobility but also highlighted research from France that suggests shared-scooter programmes are unlikely to replace car journeys.
It also raised issues around street clutter and vandalism from hireable street scooter schemes and said local transport authorities 'must be given appropriate powers to deal effectively and decisively with public realm issues, including powers to implement designated parking areas, as well as enforcement'.
A spokesman said: 'It is important to ensure governance of micromobility vehicles use helps to do the following three things: encourage modal shift away from car use, improve transport choice and accessibility (for as many people as possible), and create benefits for society, the economy and the environment.
'We’re recommending a DfT-funded and delivered monitoring programme to review the success of various micromobility solutions and understand any issues re: safety, passenger abstraction and impact on active travel The introduction of Future Mobility Zones presents an ideal mechanism for doing this.'
Mobility as a Service
TfSE said it would support the introduction of guidance or a Code of Practice for the MaaS industry.
The Code of Practice could learn from international best practice and cover:
- Roles, responsibilities and expectations;
- Consumer rights and safety;
- Fair competition;
- Financial protection for consumers;
- Minimum system requirements; and
- Ticket revenue breakdown / share for multi-modal journeys
The STB warned that unregulated competition in MaaS could lead to many solutions having 'a limited selection of providers or have a bias to one or more providers'.
It called for more co-ordination and oversight from government to encourage, regulate and standardise the MaaS market.
'We would also support the development of reward schemes where rewards can be earned or gained by using active and / or sustainable travel modes in the MaaS journey. The rewards scheme could be designed with lower costs for journeys with active and sustainable legs to provide an effective incentive to encourage greater use of these modes.'