COVID-19 ISO Insights

Rental E-scooters to Roll in NYC and UK

July 13, 2020

By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU

Major e-scooter companies, such as Lime and Bird, have been having a tough time during the COVID-19 crisis, with demand for rentals dropping by almost 100% in some places, according to The Verge. That dynamic had reportedly compelled various e-scooter companies to discontinue offering services given this environment.

But there may be good news on the horizon for these companies, as both New York City and the UK have reportedly changed their attitudes towards e-scooters and plan to permit their use through pilot projects.

UK to Permit Rental E-scooter Trials Starting in July 2020

TechCrunch has reported that the UK Department of Transport (DfT) will begin allowing e-scooter trials spanning up to 12 months beginning in July 2020. Per the article, several municipalities, including London, are expected to submit proposals with rental companies to the DfT for approval. The article notes that Bird, Bolt, Tier, Neuron Mobility, Lime, Voi and Zipp Mobility are among the following rental companies that could participate.

TechCrunch notes that the trial only applies to rentals, and not privately-owned e-scooters; furthermore, helmets will reportedly not be required, operators will need a driver’s license, speeds will be limited to 15.5 miles per hour on roads, and e-scooters will not be permitted on sidewalks.

Additionally, according to the related DfT guidance, rental e-scooter operators will need third-party insurance. The guidance also suggests that local areas planning e-scooter trials consider additional requirements such as the following:

  • Limit the number of e-scooters permitted during a trial
  • Limit the location of the trial using geo-fencing technology
  • Make training and helmets available
  • Specify locations for parking dockless e-scooters to reduce potential sidewalk clutter
  • Ensure that the rental company shares usage data during the trial (DfT notes it will require companies to provide data to the DfT)

New York City, Except Manhattan: Rental Trial Programs Starting by May 2021

According to Reuters, unlike the UK, New York City has legalized private-use electric bikes in addition to e-scooters; regarding rental e-scooters, trial programs will be implemented in the city except in Manhattan, by May 2021.

Per Reuters, Lime, Bird, Lyft, and Spin (owned by Ford Motors Co) are the rental e-scooter companies that are expected to propose trials.

E-scooter speeds will reportedly be limited to 20 miles per hour (30 kilometers per hour) and electric bikes will be limited to 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour).

According to a related SILIVE article, e-bike and e-scooter riders in New York City must be at least 16 years old, and e-scooter riders under 18 must wear a helmet; both e-bikes and e-scooters are prohibited from sidewalks and limited to roads with speed limits of 30 miles per hour or less.

Of note, a related Intelligent Transport article, explains that companies participating in the future e-scooter trial program, must:

[...] make sure their vehicles don’t obstruct sidewalks or ramps. This will benefit all New Yorkers walking the city’s narrow sidewalks – and especially people with disabilities or restricted mobility. Shared e-scooter operators will also be required to offer e-scooters that are accessible for use by people with disabilities.

This legislation specifically requires that the scooter companies work with the [Department of Transportation (DOT)], other city agencies [such as the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)] and members of the disability community to provide accessible scooter options. The accessible scooter models have three wheels, and some have seats.