transport solution or health and safety hazard?

Reviews | By Edward Leigh, Smarter Cambridge Transport

Smarter Cambridge Transport – Edward Leigh. Photo: Keith Heppell. (39820649)

You may have seen them abroad. You may have even seen one used (probably illegally) in the UK. This is a motorized version of a children’s stroller.

They look fun, pretty quick, and take up little space on the road, so why not like it? Well, we’ll find out soon, as the Combined Authority has awarded a contract to Voi Technology to ride rental electric scooters in Cambridge.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transportation Safety has voiced concerns about transportation safety, low health benefits and the surprisingly high carbon emissions associated with rental fleets.

The combination of small wheels that jump at every ditch in the road and a high center of gravity means that riders are more likely than riders to experience a head fall. Pedestrians already have enough difficulty navigating busy roads and sidewalks: increase the number of fast and quiet vehicles in the mix and more collisions are inevitable.

A Voi electric scooter in use in Cambridge.  Photo: Matthew Power Photography (39968263)
A Voi electric scooter in use in Cambridge. Photo: Matthew Power Photography (39968263)

If we already had a completely separate network for cycles, electric scooters could use it in a reasonably safe way. But we don’t. Neither roads nor sidewalks are a safe environment for them.

Then there is the question of where they will be parked. Cambridge city center is already full: even without the need for social distancing, sidewalks are inadequate for all pedestrians. If electric scooters end up littering sidewalks like Ofo bikes, there will be protests.

The high carbon emissions are in part a result of the miles traveled by vehicles involved in recharging and servicing electric scooters, and moving them from remote locations to popular collection points. Voi is trying to solve this problem by using e-cargo bikes to transport replaceable batteries to electric scooters in the field.

It is questionable whether the rental model can provide sufficient availability and be viable without subsidy. However, private electric scooters have an advantage over cycles: there are models that are compact, light and easy to transport on a bus.

If people could travel safely and easily up to a few kilometers to and from train, metro and express bus stops using their own electric scooters, it could become a popular and practical solution to the riddle of the former. / last mile for public transport.

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UK’s first test of e-bikes and electric scooters arrives in Cambridge

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Susan W. Lloyd

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