It has been confirmed that plans for an e-scooter trial on the Island are being developed for approval by the Department of Transport.
If it goes ahead, the trial will join a number of 12-month pilot schemes across the UK with the Island programme delivered by Solent Transport, the Isle of Wight Council and e-scooter provider Beryl, with no direct costs falling on the council.
It is illegal to use e-scooters on public roads but, if approved, up to 75 of the rented devices will be available from November. Their use would then be legal on roads and cycle lanes but not pavements for users aged 16 or over holding a full or provisional licence. The devices will have a top speed of 12½ mph with helmets recommended but not mandatory. Privately owned e-scooters are not part of the trial.
It is hoped that it will encourage a switch to a greener mode of transport for shorter journeys, but experience across the world has been mixed, with some evidence e-scooters replacing trips walked, cycled or taken by public transport.
Beryl’s Chief Executive, Philip Ellis, said, “The Isle of Wight is a fantastic place to host these e-scooter trials and Beryl is excited to give the Island an opportunity to play a leading role in transforming how the UK travels in a greener and safer way post Covid-19. With the Isle of Wight being part of Solent Transport’s Future Transport Zone, it is exciting to be working in a region with an ambitious vision for mobility innovation.”
Councillor Ian Ward, Cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, said: “We welcome this trial on the Isle of Wight. E-scooters could help the Island, not only as we emerge from this pandemic but as we look to tackle climate change by offering a greener and healthier alternative to the car for many journeys.”
Safety concerns include questions about the design of e-scooters, riders’ ability and a lack of evidence on how they interact with other road users and pedestrians and liability in the case of an accident. YouTube star Emily Hartridge, aged 35, was the first person to be killed in the UK while riding one illegally last July when she was hit by a lorry in Battersea.
Fans say they cut carbon emissions by reducing the use of cars, but some studies suggest the short lifespan of rental devices means carbon savings are minimal, if achieved at all.
There are also concerns about the trials themselves. A report to the House of Lords noted: “similar schemes have been running in cities abroad for some time and we would have expected more use of evidence from those.” It’s also argued the trial’s objectives were unclear, with no detail on how results would be judged.
The costs of using the Island scheme have not been disclosed, but a current Beryl trial in Norwich charges a £1.50 unlocking fee then 10p per minute, falling to 5p with pre-payment packages.
Experience in some European cities has seen many of the devices simply abandoned, blocking pavements or even thrown in rivers. In Norwich there is a £5 charge if the e-scooter is not returned to one of four allocated ‘Beryl bays’.
One of the earliest UK trials in Milton Keynes has proved extremely popular with 10,000 rides in less than a month with the only apparent problems being irresponsible parking. But in Coventry a trial was halted after only five days with reports of people riding them on pavements and the wrong way in one-way streets and e-scooters discarded ‘absolutely everywhere’ in the city.