"As part of the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) ongoing work to support local transport improvement and in particular decarbonisation, the LGA’s Economy, Environment, Housing and Transport Board are keen to explore new and developing modes of transport and business models that could improve accessibility and sustainability.
Many local authorities have already taken significant steps developing shared micromobility schemes, covering the rental of a growing class of small, light and zero emission powered vehicles capable of speed up to 15 miles per hour, such as e-bikes, e-scooters and cargo bikes. There remains huge potential for expansion but a clear need to get it right – especially in terms of public safety and support - by learning from colleagues and best practice here in the UK and around the world.
Refreshed Local Transport Plans will likely determine future funding, and new guidance is expected to require consideration of, and even provision for, higher uptake of new mobility options like shared e-scooters, e-bikes and cargo bikes. This report on shared micromobility aims to colleagues as they look to start or continue their plans on new mobility."
Cllr David Renard
Economy, Environment, Housing and Transport Board
Local Government Association
Many local authorities have already taken significant steps developing shared micromobility schemes...There remains huge potential for expansion but a clear need to get it right – especially in terms of public safety and support - by learning from colleagues and best practice here in the UK and around the world.
Micromobility encompasses a wide range of small lightweight vehicles including bikes/e-bikes, e-scooters and cargo bikes. The rise of different micromobility modes is evident across the world with e-bikes and e-scooters being the most prominent. A 2022 micromobility market report put the global market value of micromobility to be about £37 billion in 2020, with expectations to reach over £169 billion by 2030. Shared micromobility schemes have been introduced in many cities across the world including in the UK.
Shared micromobility can provide access to an e-scooter, bike/e-bike or cargo bike without the need to own one, enabling flexible, affordable and environmentally friendly transportation. Shared micromobility provides short-term access to vehicles for trips within a defined operating area. Vehicles are either booked via an app or at physical kiosks/pillars typically located next to where the vehicles are parked. Users pay on a trip-by-trip or a subscription basis.
Shared micromobility can be an important contributor to transport decarbonisation encouraging mode shift from private cars, improving air quality, and reducing congestion. This is particularly pertinent with the UK Government committed to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and with many local authorities declaring a climate emergency. Furthermore, it is understood that the Government’s forthcoming updated Local Transport Plan (LTP) guidance will recognise the need to respond to climate and environmental challenges alongside new transport technologies. In this context, shared micromobility is, therefore, important as a relatively new mode of transport that could support addressing climate change challenges.
Whilst there are different micromobility vehicles available in the market, this report is focused on:
- shared bikes/electric bikes (e-bikes)
- shared electric scooters (e-scooters)
- shared cargo bikes/electric cargo bike (e-cargo bikes).
There are different shared micromobility operating models which could be implemented including (in this context, ‘publicly’ owned or operated refers to a council or transport authority):
- Publicly owned and operated vehicles (there are limited examples of this operating model with none in the UK at the moment; however, Nice bike share in Minnesota, U.S., previously fell under this model but now is run by a private company).
- Publicly owned and operated by a private operator. Operations may be subsidised by the transport authority (Santander cycle hire scheme in London).
- Privately owned and operated: a licence/permission to operate is granted by the relevant authority (combined, local or transport) to one or more private operators who provide and operate vehicles at their own cost but are typically closely monitored by the transport authority (a rental e-scooter trial in London).
There are also different parking models available, which can be categorised as either station based or free floating.
- physical docking stations: micromobility vehicles must be parked at fixed docking stations
- hub-based stations: micromobility vehicles must be parked in parking bays with light infrastructure such as parking racks
- geofenced and marked parking bays: geofencing refers to location enabled technology, typically via GPS, which can create virtual geographic boundaries that restricts where shared micromobility vehicles can operate. With e-scooters, sometimes this is introduced to reduce the speed of the vehicle. In this case, journeys cannot end until the e-scooter or e-bike is parked in a designated parking bay (painted markings and signage) at the end of their trip.
- free floating systems: micromobility vehicles can be parked anywhere within the operating area.
There are benefits and challenges associated with each of these parking models both in terms of cost, user experience, maintenance, and fleet distribution, which is explored in more detail later in the report.
The global shared micromobility market has grown significantly over the past five years, particularly with the rise of shared e-scooter schemes. According to a North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association 2021 report at least 298 cities in North America had a shared e-scooter or bike share scheme and 50 per cent of cities with bike share schemes had e-scooter fleets. A 2021 Autonomy shared micromobility report found shared micromobility schemes (bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters) available in more than 420 cities and towns in Europe, spreading across 35 countries with more than 150 different operators.
Shared micromobility companies in the UK include but are not limited to Beryl, Serco, Lime, Dott, Tier, Voi, Ginger, Neuron, and Hourbike. The CoMoUK Annual Bike Share report found in the UK, there are currently:
- Thirty-nine bike share schemes with around 1.8 million members – defined as anyone who has used the bikes in the last 12 months. It is worth noting, these are on-street self-service schemes. There are, however, many others including smaller closed/community run schemes.
- Thirty-one shared e-scooter trial areas in England launched by the Department for Transport (DfT).
- E-cargo bike share schemes are emerging with operations launched in Manchester and London.
To successfully develop shared micromobility schemes, approach to procurement, micromobility parking, and infrastructure, provision needs careful consideration to ensure the benefits of shared micromobility are fully realised.
This report provides an overview of the shared micromobility sector and is structured as follows:
- overview of the current legal position of micromobility modes in the UK, noting the current differences between private and shared modes (e-scooters)
- summary of the different shared micromobility parking models
- summary of the different shared micromobility operating models (how a scheme is managed)
- summary of shared micromobility benefits and how shared micromobility schemes can contribute to Local Transport Plans (LTPs) and transport decarbonisation
- considerations around implementation of shared micromobility schemes including areas such as procurement and supporting infrastructure
- a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section.
The current UK micromobility regulation has not caught up with the speed of development of new types of micromobility vehicles. However, the UK Government plans to introduce a Transport Bill to provide greater regulatory clarity on new forms of micromobility vehicles including e-scooters and other types of light electric vehicles.
The following section provides an overview on the relevant UK micromobility regulation. The primary focus for this section is on e-scooters and e-bikes; pedal bike regulation is not explored in detail given this has been well established for many years. It is worth noting that cargo bikes are either governed by e-bike or regular bike regulation depending on the use of electrical assistance.
E-scooters come under the category of ‘powered transporters’ in the UK. The government defines powered transporters as a variety of novel and emerging personal transport devices which are powered by a motor including e-scooters. E-scooters are classified as motor vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1988, which means the rules that apply to motor vehicles, also apply to e-scooters. The Road Traffic Act 1988 defines a ‘motor vehicle’ as ‘any mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads. E-scooter users are, therefore, required to have a driving licence, insurance, and tax.
Private e-scooters in the UK are de-facto illegal to use on public roads given the challenge in meeting tax, insurance, vehicle standards and driving licence requirements. However, it is legal to use e-scooters on private land with the permission of the landowner. Although it is not illegal to sell powered transporters such as e-scooters, responsible vendors should provide customers with accurate information regarding the legal restrictions and terms of their use.
In July 2020, the DfT fast tracked regulations allowing trials of rental e-scooters to support a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and gather evidence to help inform future policy and regulation. Rental e-scooters need to be covered by an insurance policy (for users and the vehicles), users are required to have a valid driving licence (provisional licences are also permitted) and helmets are recommended but not mandatory. E-scooters are allowed to be used on the same road spaces as bikes and Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPCs) (both on the road and in cycle lanes).
As part of the trials, the DfT have defined a sub-category for an e-scooter being a motor vehicle that:
- is fitted with an electric motor with a maximum continuous power rating of 500 watts and is not fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling the vehicle
- is designed to carry no more than one person
- has a maximum speed not exceeding 15.5 miles per hour
- has two wheels, one front and one rear, aligned along the direction of travel
- has a mass including the battery but excluding the rider not exceeding 55 kilograms
- has means of directional control via the use of handlebars that are mechanically linked to the steered wheel
- has means of controlling the speed via hand controls and a power control that defaults to the off position.
DfT trial requirements
All local authorities were asked to submit proposals which could meet the DfT’s requirements. Operators are required to have appropriate insurance in place and arrangements for central data access for third party evaluation. In addition, Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) are required to be updated by councils to allow e-scooter use on bike lanes and tracks alongside amendments to signage and road markings. Safety issues were also considered and addressed for the trials including vehicle design and maintenance, a mandatory minimum level of training for new users and helmet use.
Additional trial requirements introduced by the DfT in April 2022 included improvements around general safety such as lower speed limits for new riders, parking incentives, penalties and improved geofencing.
Non-regulatory e-scooter trial controls
Local authorities have been able to add additional requirements such as the duration of the trial period, total number of e-scooters allowed in the scheme, the areas where e-scooters can be parked and the application of geofencing to limit or slow vehicles in specific areas.
There are currently 31 regions across England holding the trials, and councils can extend the trials until the end of 2024.
E-bikes have their own regulatory requirements. E-bikes which meet the EAPC categorisation must have pedals which assist the rider when pedalling through a small electric motor (pedelec). EAPC requirements include:
- the bike must be fitted with pedals that can propel it
- the bike must show either the battery voltage or maximum speed on the bike
- the bike must show the power output or the manufacturer of the motor on the bike
- maximum continuous rated power must not exceed 250 watts
- electrical assistance must be cut off when the vehicle reaches 15.5 miles per hour
- users must be aged 14 and over to ride an e-bike.
If the bike meets the EAPC requirements it is classed as a normal pedal bike which means users can ride it in bike lanes and paths and anywhere else pedal bikes are allowed. In addition, EAPCs do not require users to have a driving licence, registration, be taxed or insured. All shared e-bikes meet the EAPC classification.
If the EAPC requirements are not fulfilled, then the vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle on UK roads. Electric bikes which fall outside of the EAPC requirements require type approval. Type approval is the process whereby the UK Government ensure that a vehicle meets specified performance standards. The Vehicle Certification Agency is responsible for issuing the UK type approvals on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. Type approval should be completed by the manufacturer or importer before purchase. The vehicle should have a plate showing its type approval number. In addition, the user will need to have a driving licence, insurance and wear a helmet.
For electric bikes, type approval must be sought if either:
- it can be propelled without pedalling (a ‘twist and go’ EAPC); and
- it does not meet the EAPC rules.
Twist and go e-bikes typically include a throttle or similar control that provide electric assistance without the use of pedals. A recent change in UK law to bring it in line with European law was made in 2016 which allows some twist and go e-bikes to fall under the EAPC classification without a need for type approval. The change in the law stated that any EAPC produced since 2016, with a throttle feature, does not require type approval if the throttle feature is limited to 3.7 miles per hour. Any e-bikes with a throttle that provides assistance above this, without the rider pedalling, are classed as motorcycles or mopeds. It should be noted that any twist and go e-bike that was manufactured, imported, and sold prior to 2016 is not subject to these restrictions.
The same requirements apply to e-cargo bikes in terms of adhering to the EAPC rules.
The Queen’s speech on 10 May 2022 announced the UK Government’s intention to introduce legislation on the future of transport in the new parliamentary session as part of the Transport Bill. The Government intends to create a new, low-speed, zero-emission vehicle (LZEV) category which would be different from the cycle and motor vehicle categories. It is understood that new powers, to be set out in the Transport Bill, would allow the Government to decide which vehicles fall into this new category in the future and establish how the vehicles should be regulated. In addition, the bill will likely provide new powers for local transport authorities to manage rental operations for both shared e-scooters and e-bikes.
The following section provides an overview of key considerations for councils. Given similarity in some of the considerations, all three modes (e-scooters, bikes/e-bikes, e-cargo bikes/cargo bikes) have been grouped together. Where there are differences between the modes, those are highlighted.
It is worth noting that CoMoUK have various guidance documents that can be of help to councils. For example, they have published guidance on starting and running a successful bike share scheme. The guidance is designed to help stakeholders, particularly councils, who would like to introduce shared micromobility schemes. In addition, CoMoUK are due to publish their report on the shared e-scooter trials in England.