The UK finally welcomes e-scooters

Coronavirus has prompted the government to rethink its transport infrastructure.

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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prompted governments around the world to reassess their ideas of “business as usual.” In the UK, for example, transport secretary Grant Shapps has recently unveiled a £2 billion package to support “active travel” as the country eventually emerges from the crisis. Part of this deal will see e-scooters officially welcomed into the country, with trials originally planned for next year being fast-tracked to next month.

Thanks to draconian vehicle laws e-scooters had previously been banned in the UK, with the exception of extremely restricted trials by US startup Bird. Now, however, with coronavirus changing the way people get from A to B — and with the UK government cautiously eyeing more sustainable transport options in the long term anyway — four local authorities will start e-scooter trials next month. Shapps says the trials will be extended to “every region in the country that wants them” in a bid to get e-scooter rental schemes up and running as fast as possible. Birmingham and Coventry in the West Midlands are among the first cities to get on board.

It’s not clear yet what shape these trials will take — Transport for West Midlands, along with Birmingham and Coventry City Councils, have said they’ll share plans and further details on the trials as they develop. Nonetheless, for UK cities to be given the go ahead on e-scooters finally brings it up to speed with other European cities that have long since adopted the tech. And it marks an altogether greener attitude from policy makers — as part of the £2 billion package Shapps also announced major investment into new cycle lanes and a £10 million funding injection for additional on-street EV charging infrastructure, the lack of which has been a significant obstacle to EV adoption in the country.