ESC0033

Written evidence submitted by the London Assembly Transport Committee

 

Introduction

 

The London Assembly Transport Committee (the Committee) holds the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) to account for their work delivering the capital’s transport network. It examines all aspects of the transport network and presses for improvements on behalf of Londoners.[i]

 

The Committee welcomes the opportunity to respond to this call for evidence, not least in the context of the extraordinary challenges the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on transport networks and the people that use and work on them. It is becoming clear, for instance, that there will be an ongoing need to enable physical distancing as people travel, at least in the near term. The Committee has not yet formed a view on the impacts of COVID-19 on transport but would expect those impacts to be considered should any further changes to transport regulation be made. The Committee recognises the need to explore what additional forms of transport might be required as we emerge from lockdown. For instance, the interaction between any moves to increase e-scooter use and those to widen footpaths and provide emergency cycling lanes to support physical distancing will require careful consideration to ensure the safety of all.

 

The Committee’s responses are informed by work it has done on micromobility vehicles, including e-scooters. This includes the investigation, Transport Now and in the Future.[ii] The Committee’s recent investigation into accessible transport, From Step-Free to Stress-Free, also gave insights into the need to ensure the safety of pedestrians and vulnerable road users are prioritised when considering the wider roll-out of micromobility vehicles.[iii]

 

Micromobility vehicles: Benefits and risks

 

As the Committee heard during its investigation, Transport Now and in the Future,[iv] micromobility vehicles, including e-scooters, have the potential to improve the way that people move around London. If they replace journeys that would otherwise be made in cars, they could contribute to taking cars off the road and help to realise the associated benefits such as improved air quality and reduced congestion. E-scooters could provide particular benefits for first and last mile journeys; connecting public transport to users’ journey start and end points.

 

While there may be some benefits to e-scooters, the risks associated with introducing these into the transport network must also be considered. As the Committee heard in Transport Now and in the Future,[v] the main risks of e-scooters relate to safety: safety of the user, safety of other road users and safety of people on the pavement. Risk to users’ safety must be mitigated by adequate regulations to govern speed and visibility of vehicles (through, for example, front and back lights and reflectors). Risks to all road users must be considered when regulating on which roads e-scooters are permitted, and the maximum speed of vehicles.

 

The Committee also heard in Transport Now and in the Future[vi] about potential risks created by confusing regulatory differences between different jurisdictions. In London, for example, boroughs are individually responsible for the regulation of dockless bikes. This has resulted in different rules between boroughs and a lack of consistency for bike scheme providers and the people that use them. This situation must not be repeated for any shared e-scooter schemes that are rolled out.[vii] Harmonised regulation for e-scooters vehicles across cities, and indeed across the country, could help to improve users’ understanding of the regulation and adherence to it, and therefore safety. There is also a risk that e-scooters may replace active travel (walking and cycling) and the health benefits this can bring. It is essential that this risk is minimised.

 

Use of e-scooters in the urban environment

 

The Committee has not heard evidence to determine exactly which types of micromobility vehicles should be permitted on different categories of roads or cycle lanes and cycle tracks. The Committee is clear, however, that e-scooters should not be used on pavements due to risks to pedestrians.

The Committee also believes that micromobility vehicles should be allowed on the roads only if strong, clear and consistent regulation is put in place beforehand to ensure that the safety risks of this form of transport are managed.

 

Pavements already designated for shared use with cycle facilities need careful consideration. Some of these shared use pavements are designed as a safety measure to avoid dangerous junctions. The importance of improving the quality of cycle infrastructure as a whole and considering the safety of all road and pavement users, is further highlighted if e-scooters are to be introduced. The Committee’s investigation into accessible and inclusive transport in London drew particular attention to the negative impact that poorly designed shared space can have on disabled and older people.[viii]

 

It is also vital that shared micromobility schemes, including e-scooters, are provided with adequate parking space and users are incentivised to leave these vehicles in places that do not obstruct pavements or roads: vehicles left on the pavement can have particularly negative consequences for older people and disabled people, such as those using a wheelchair or visually impaired people. As the Committee heard in its investigation, From Step-Free to Stress-Free,[ix] careless abandonment of dockless bikes can eventually make blind and partially sighted people unwilling to leave their homes for fear of collisions or serious harm. There is the potential for this problem to grow if numbers and types of e-scooters proliferate without adequate regulation.

 

Further information

 

You can access the Committee’s work referenced in this response at the links below:

 

June 2020

 


[i]References

www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-committees/transport-committee

[ii] London Assembly Transport Committee, Transport Now and in the Future, 2020.

[iii] London Assembly Transport Committee, From Step-Free to Stress-Free: Accessible and inclusive transport in London, 2020.

[iv] London Assembly Transport Committee, Transport Now and in the Future, 2020.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] www.gov.uk/government/news/2-billion-package-to-create-new-era-for-cycling-and-walking

[viii] London Assembly Transport Committee, From Step-Free to Stress-Free: Accessible and inclusive transport in London, 2020.

[ix] Ibid.