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Residents and visitors will soon be able to get around the West of England on e-scooters after Regional Mayor Tim Bowles announced the name of the company appointed to deliver the region’s e-scooter trials.

Voi Technology Ltd will be making hop-on hop-off e-scooters available in Bristol and Bath to help residents and visitors to get around central areas. E-scooters will also be available at other key locations in South Gloucestershire such as stations, university campuses, hospitals and large employment sites.

Voi will also run a longer-term rental scheme; allowing residents to take e-scooters home and use them for journeys on a longer-term basis, giving confidence that they can get to and from their destinations during times when bus and train capacity is limited.

The 12-month e-scooter trial is being led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils.

The following key rules apply for the e-scooter trials:

  • Privately owned e-scooters remain illegal to use on roads, pavements, parks and any other areas. The only place that privately owned e-scooters can legally be used is on private land with the permission of the landowner.
  • Only e-scooters that are hired or leased through the West of England’s trial can be used legally on roads, cycle lanes or cycle tracks.  Effectively e-scooters that are part of the trial can be used wherever cycles are permitted.
  • E-scooters cannot be used on pavements.
  • E-scooters are classed as motorised vehicles and riders of authorised trial e-scooters must hold a full or provisional driving licence.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “I’m really pleased to announce Voi Technology Ltd will be getting our region moving as the operator for our e-scooter trials. This is an exciting prospect, bringing a new, low carbon way to travel around the region, and making it accessible for every community. This is a real benefit for our region while social distancing is in place on public transport, but also it’s a great opportunity to understand how they might help support my longer-term sustainable transport ambitions including our transformational MetroWest rail system and regional Mass Transit.

“We received a large number of strong bids and it was great to see that the West of England is viewed as a place to invest. Now we can get the trials on the road within the next few weeks.

“We have been talking with our colleagues from other combined authorities running e-scooter trials around the country in order to learn from their experiences, and VOI bring their own experience too which is valuable. We are working closely with our councils and Avon & Somerset Police to ensure that e-scooters are used responsibly as part of the trial.”

The exact start date for the trials is subject to discussions with VOI and authorisation from the Department of Transport, but it is anticipated that the trials will begin to be rolled out later this month.

The Swedish company Voi launched Europe’s first dockless e-scooter service in 2018 and now operates in more than 50 cities across 11 countries.

Fredrik Hjelm, co-founder and CEO of Voi Technology, said: “Voi will soon be coming to Bristol and Bath, two marvellous British cities of great economic and cultural importance, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. The pandemic has created a major transportation problem that Voi is helping to solve as we need a climate- and COVID-friendly alternative to a car-led ‘recovery’. The viable alternative is an e-scooter rental scheme which puts rider and public safety, as well as the climate, first.”

Richard Corbett, UK and Ireland General Manager, Voi Technology, said: “Our public transport system is under significant pressure as a result of COVID-19, and forward-thinking solutions are required to help keep people moving safely and sustainably during the upcoming winter period. To ensure the scheme gets off to a smooth start, Voi is making use of licence plates to help identify any misuse of our e-scooters, as well as investing in ambassadors on the streets to ensure that any anti-social behaviour is stopped in its tracks. We are committed to ensuring that the launch is equitable for all, including the blind and partially sighted.”

WECA has been engaging with groups representing vulnerable road users –  including the RNIB and Age UK – and will continue to do so throughout the e-scooter trial. It will work closely with the operator, stakeholders and the public during the 12-month trial to continually review the trial and refine how it works.

Image: Voi Technology

Councillor Joanna Wright, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s joint cabinet member for Transport Services, said: “This is an exciting project and I am delighted we are part of the trial. E-scooters have the potential to play a key role in our vision to create a connected city, fit for the future through the provision of sustainable transport options which promote active travel and reduce carbon emissions.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We are pleased to welcome VOI and e-scooters to Bristol, bringing much needed travel options alongside improvements we’re making for cycling, buses and mass transit to support people flow on major routes. These options are even more important as we react and recover from Covid restrictions to our public transport networks, and the investment and jobs VOI are bringing the city region are encouraging too.

“As a city, we made proposals to government over two years ago to trial e-scooters in Bristol and we are delighted we are now able to trial them on our roads. Scooters are a great way to travel while reducing emissions, air pollution and congestion, and we will work closely with the operator and share experiences with other cities to make sure they are used responsibly and safely by those taking up the trial.”

South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Cllr Steve Reade said: “I’m very pleased to see the e-scooter trial for the West of England make progress with this announcement of the operator for our region.

“It is important that we explore new forms of sustainable transport so that we can continue to improve both our environment and people’s health. These electric scooters also complement our climate change ambitions as they will potentially help reduce harmful emissions on our roads and improve air quality.”

Rental e-scooters on the trial will be capped to a maximum speed of 15.5 mph. Geofencing technology will allow slower speed restrictions to be imposed in defined areas, which will be identified in collaboration with the police, the operator, and stakeholder groups such as equalities groups. VOI has the ability to restrict or bar non-compliant users.

The West of England is one of four Future Transport Zones that will trial the use of innovative technologies to make it easier to find sustainable ways to travel around the West of England.

Press release by WECA.

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