Monday, 19 November 2018

Scooters and the sharing economy

The fast-growing 'sharing economy' includes firms like Airbnb (flats and homes) and Uber (car hires). Customers book what they need, when they need it, on demand, via app or the web. Convenient, easy, affordable and low-stress.

In America, electric scooters are already part of the sharing economy. Pioneering firms like Lime and Bird have put hundreds of lightweight, rechargeable scooters on the streets of major cities and on university campuses. Consumers unlock the scooters by logging into an app and paying about £1 to start. Operating fees depend on how long the ride continues, but the entire cost is usually much less than hiring a car or hailing a cab.

Scooters don't pollute, and they don't take up much space on streets or in car parks. Riding is fun and easy after a bit of trial and error. More scooters could mean less traffic and congestion in cities and on campuses. So why aren't UK cities encouraging scooters and the sharing economy?

Currently, UK law doesn't allow motorized scooters on paved streets/public roads. And based on the US experience, which has been both positive and negative, UK municipalities may be wary of consumers weaving in and out of traffic, riding on sidewalks and/or leaving scooters on the side of the street.

Now US-based Bird is among those seeking permission to operate in the UK. Its first test is a limited pilot programme on one private path near Bird's London offices. Will UK regulators change the rules to allow scooter-sharing services to operate?