Middlesbrough Council was the first area in the UK to allow a trial to enable the use of private rented E-scooters on its Highway, following changes in legislation.
COVID-19 has resulted in transport accessibility issues; particularly relating to bus services, frequency and capacity. There are also issues surrounding lack of public transport opportunities following a reduction in public transport supported services funding for areas that are not deemed to be commercially viable by bus operators.
This has reduced accessibility to certain areas of the Borough geographically and spatially.
The solution: Provision of micro-mobility opportunities in the form of E-scooters to increase accessibility for shorter journeys and improve connectivity. This is particularly pertinent with a reduction in the transport options, and allows another transport mode to be considered for these journeys.
The E-scooter trial is being fully funded and developed by a private organisation (Ginger) who fully manage the programme. Tees Valley Combined Authority identified an appropriate organisation to deliver across the region, with Middlesbrough Council being the first to launch. The Council used an experimental traffic regulation order to permit the scooters to use public highway. The scooters are permitted to be used on infrastructure where a bicycle can access, as legislation has classed the scooters in the same category as electric assisted pedal cycles. The Council has worked with Ginger to restrict access to roads over 40mph, and to not allow the scooters to be used in pedestrianised areas. The scooters are not legally allowed to be used by under 18’s, helmets are not compulsory.
There has been no cost to Middlesbrough Council as a result of permitting this trial. Comments on the suitability of the use of E-scooters will be monitored over the period prior to making a recommendation on the permanency of the legislation. Stakeholders are encouraged to comment accordingly.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The operation of the hire E-scooters is undertaken by Ginger, a private company. The sustainability of the approach will be determined by market factors; i.e. take up and profitability. Both TVCA and Middlesbrough Council are supporting this initiative in terms of officer time and assistance, but not financially. This is something that all organisations are keen to succeed, and partnership working will be critical; however not at the expense of public funding interventions.
The trial was initiated in a very short space of time, in order to fit with demand and expectations. In hindsight, this would have benefited from a longer lead in time, which could have assisted in addressing teething issues encountered.
The scooters have been used inappropriately by a minority of users, accessing areas where they were not permitted. Further communications and restrictions would have assisted in minimising this impact. Local police force and neighbourhood support teams have been involved in the monitoring of the trial, which has been pivotal in identifying the solutions to address the issues raised.
Chris Orr, email: Chris_Orr@middlesbrough.gov.uk