Black Cab. Tube. The Red Bus. The Boris Bike. London has an extensive and generally reliable public transit network that 53% of Londoners regularly rely on. Compared with many major cities, however, one thing has previously been missing, until now: the e-scooter. London, along with New York, has been one of the last major cities to legally allow e-scooters. However, with the fast-track of legalisation for e-scooter rental schemes to help with social distancing the UK is racing towards accelerating the global micro-mobility revolution. The question is, why does London need e-scooters now?
The human race is at its most innovative, inventive, and inspiring when pushed to its limits. The 2008-2009 financial crisis led to the birth of Facebook, AirBnB, and Uber, to name just a few. And now, in 2020, we find ourselves facing another global challenge. These are painful times but also an opportunity that can’t be missed. In a matter of days, the population went into hiding, abandoning their cars and leaving the streets empty. As a result, pollution levels plummeted to their lowest levels in decades – toxic air levels were down 50% at the highest density traffic spots across the capital. For the first time in years, streets were empty for public use whether riding a bike, playing outside, or just going for a stroll without fear of a speeding motorist. As London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has stressed, it is vital we pursue the long term implementation of technologies, infrastructure, and policies to maintain this improved urban quality of life. E-scooters will play an important role in achieving this.
Most obviously, e-scooters are another weapon in the climate change armoury. Electric, quiet, and clean; the average e-scooter produces only 97 grams of CO2 per mile compared with the average U.K car, 450 grams per mile. With improving battery technology and the provision of renewable energy, their environmental credentials will only improve.
Some might argue bikes and e-bikes already fill this role but, for some workers, biking to work just isn’t an option, whether down to health reasons, the lack of a work shower, or just the need to look sharp. Those workers would often take public transit, a car, or ride hail but with Covid-19 requiring social distancing, many more will take the car. E-scooters provide the benefits of cycling without turning up like you’ve circumnavigated the globe by bike on your way to work. Just the fresh air on the way to work is enough to make you significantly more productive at the office and with trains running at 10% capacity due to the high Covid-19 risk, single-occupancy, sustainable transport solutions are vital to overcome this barrier.
Equally important, however, e-scooters are designed to be affordable for the masses. Zwings is working with local authorities to offer e-scooters in rental schemes with the ride cost typically starting from just £1, these transport solutions become far more accessible for a higher number of demographics and therefore driving a drastic improvement in transport equity. And for those looking to purchase a private e-scooter, the cost in comparison to a car is orders of magnitude less. Pandemic impacts those in the lower income brackets substantially more. With expensive city living, many don’t own a car relying even more heavily on public transit. With no other option but to take the train or bus to work, it leaves this segment of the population even more exposed to Covid-19. E-scooters, orders of magnitude lower than a car in price and with no fuel costs, overcome many of these issues. However, with the widespread introduction of e-scooter rental schemes in towns and cities across the UK, purchasing an e-scooter may no longer be necessary for those unsure of whether to buy one or not.
The U.K government and London city councils have realised that the lockdown period has provided the government a period of time to design and implement critical improvements to cycle lane infrastructure whilst roads remain at approximately 70% less traffic, than prior to the pandemic. Widespread, ‘temporary’ bike lanes have been built to support frontline workers and are now being made permanent across the city, speed limits have been reduced, and some roads getting completely rid of cars. Some cities are going even further with more extreme policies and infrastructure additions. London, therefore, has a long way to go but with corporate innovators eager to get moving and city leaders now willing to open the gates, we’re moving in the right direction. Returning to ‘normal’ is no option. ‘Normal was a crisis’ . 67% of all car trips in London are below 5km and the majority of these trips are made by only 1 person in the car. On this basis, even if someone is driving the greenest of electric cars, the Model Tesla 3, they are still using 15x more electricity than an e-scooter, they still need parking spaces and they are still adding to traffic and therefore encouraging other cars to produce more emissions. E-scooters (and e-bikes) provide Londoners a cost effective solution to make a commuters life more convenient, sustainable and affordable. Zwings’ monthly subscription service makes renting a fleet of e-scooters for your office, property or council much more affordable.
London has been the epicenter of a revolutionary change in behavioural change when it comes to perception of cycling and scooting. Zwings has seen the emergence of a fresh perception of cycling and scooting. No longer do these modes of travel appeal to niche groups. They will continue to become more and more widely acceptable when travelling. These developments of both consumer perception and investment that were forecasted to take multiple years to arrive are are taking place in a matter of a few months.