Micro-Mobility: Electric Scooters on the Road to Legalization in the United Kingdom

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3Q 2020 | IN-5881

As micro-mobility sharing services have gained more traction, newer alternative modes of travel have been introduced to the market, including electric scooters. The United Kingdom hosts shared bikes but, except for a few, shared electric scooters have been nowhere to be seen on British streets. Due to their classification, electric scooters were previously illegal to ride on public roads and streets in the United Kingdom, significantly due to the fact they lack registration plates and signaling features. However, this is due to change

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Sharing Scooters to Appear on British Streets


As of July 4, 2020, electric scooters have been allowed to be ridden on the roads of the United Kingdom, but not without restrictions. Electric scooters that are privately owned are only permitted to be ridden on land that is also privately owned, and with the owner’s permission, but not on public roadways or in bicycle lanes; therefore, the only scooters that are allowed to be driven on the roads are those that are being rented from a sharing service, such as Bird or Lime. This change is a part of the government’s GBP£2 billion plan to invest in greener travel.

To rent a scooter, users are required to be a minimum of 16 years old and hold at least a provisional driver’s license. This will remain a restriction for users throughout the United Kingdom’s e-scooter service trials, because the scooters are considered motor vehicles. It is not known whether or not, depending on how successful the trials are, the e-scooter may be recategorized to be treated similarly to electric pedal-assisted bicycles, which are currently categorized differently in the eyes of the regulators. Like in many other European countries, electric scooters will also become a contributing factor to an increased level of tourism once the country is up and running in a post-COVID-19 society.

New Market Endeavors


Due to government guidelines, the United Kingdom has always been an untapped market for e-scooters. However, the introduction of these new regulation changes enables a whole new market for shared scooter providers to compete for. In November 2018, Bird announced that it was introducing its electric sharing scooters in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. This presence was a significant competitive advantage for the sharing operator, as it was announced on July 15, 2020 that the Department for Transport (DfT) has approved Bird’s scooters to be used for the current trials.

The trials are due to take place for 12 months, which, due to their classification, could be a costly business endeavor for service providers. The e-scooters being used in the trials are required by law to be covered by motor vehicle insurance policies, which will be purchased by the service providers. Additionally, the market demographic is limited due to users bing required to have at least a provisional driver’s license, which can only be obtained by users who are a minimum of 15 years and 9 months old, so younger users will be unable to use the e-scooters.

A New Geographic Zone Will Heighten the Competitive Landscape


To date only trials are planned in the United Kingdom, but, as the drive for greener last-mile travel methods is at the forefront of the DfT, it is likely that successful trials will lead to a larger number of e-scooters being found on the streets of the United Kingdom. Larger numbers of fleets could cause larger expenses for service operators if the regulations on categorizing the vehicles do not change.

Being confirmed to offer its e-scooters for this 12-month trial could ultimately give Bird a competitive edge over competing service operators, which will have to enter the competitive landscape with a striking strategy, including lower pricing. However, there is a long queue of providers eagerly wanting to jump in on the British market, including Tier Mobility—which claims to already have 1,000 scooters housed in the United Kingdom and ready for deployment—and other sharing service operator giant Lime. Competitiveness will be rife if and when the trial succeeds, with more service operators wishing to get their hands dirty.

ABI Research published pre-COVID-19 forecasts on the micro-mobility market in our Smart Bikes, Scooters, and Pedelecs: Expansion of Two Wheel Shared Transportation Market (AN-5271) Application Analysis Report, which forecasted that there will be an installed base of 2.3 million electric scooters in the European region by 2026. The United Kingdom offers a large market for service operators, as it hosts many large cities where electric bikes can already be found. E-scooters will encourage not only a greener method of last-mile travel, but also a more entertaining method of tourism, especially in larger, more tourist-friendly cities.



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