Residents of the Stokes are now able to hire ‘hop-on, hop-off’ e-scooters after a trial scheme established in Bristol city centre in October 2020 was expanded to cover Bradley Stoke, Stoke Gifford and Filton.
Clusters of coral-coloured e-scooters began appearing at MetroBus stops and other key locations in the area on Friday (12th February 2021).
As previously reported, the scheme forms part of a government initiative to support a ‘green’ restart of local travel and help mitigate reduced public transport capacity during the coronavirus emergency. It is being led locally by the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) which has signed a deal with e-scooter provider Voi Technology Ltd, Europe’s fastest growing micro-mobility operator.
The trial’s expansion has seen the number of scooters available increased to 400 in Bristol and 200 in South Gloucestershire.
The trial e-scooters can be rented by anyone over 18 with a full or provisional driving licence. Within the designated geographical area the vehicles may be used on roads, cycle lanes and designated cycle paths (including shared-use paths) but not on regular pavements.
In line with the Department for Transport’s guidance, Weca recommends wearing a cycle helmet when using an e-scooter, but their use is not mandatory.
Hiring a scooter on a casual basis costs 99p to unlock the vehicle and thereafter 14p per minute. There are also a variety of subscriptions available, including a day pass for £4.99 and a monthly pass for £34.99. With these passes, the first 45 minutes of every ride are free (anything beyond this will be charged).
Discounts are available for NHS and emergency services staff (100 percent off until the end of the current coronavirus lockdown period; normally 75 percent off), students and HC2 medical certificate holders.
Third-party insurance cover is included within the hire charge.
To hire an e-scooter, users need to first download the ‘VOI Scooters: Get Magic Wheels’ app onto their smartphone, register with the service and add a payment method (credit/debit card or Paypal). They can then locate an available e-scooter using the map function within the app.
Once at the e-scooter’s location, the hirer uses the smartphone app to scan the QR code on the vehicle’s handlebars or footpad to ‘unlock’ it and commence the hire period.
The Voi e-scooters use geofencing technology to limit access to some places, such as parks, nature reserves and play areas. Geofencing uses GPS technology to restrict use or limit the speed of e-scooters within geographically defined zones. For example, the speed of e-scooters can be automatically restricted to slower speeds within busy pedestrian areas.
Initially e-scooter speeds are being limited to between 3 to 10 mph, depending on the operating zone.
At the end of a ride, the e-scooters may be ‘parked’ almost anywhere within the operational area, however a bonus system encourages riders to leave their vehicle at any of the ‘great parking spots’ shown on the map within the smartphone app.
[Editor’s note: Although the above information about e-scooter parking comes directly from the Voi FAQ, we have now been informed that e-scooters hired as part of the Weca trial must be parked within the ‘good parking spots’ marked blue on the map within the Voi smartphone app. We are currently investigating how effectively this is being enforced and will provide a further update in due course.]
Safety measures to protect riders against Covid-19 include equipping all handlebars with anti-bacterial tape and ensuring the vehicles are regularly disinfected.
Personal e-scooters, outside of the trial, remain illegal except when used on private land with the permission of the landowner.
The story so far
Since launch, back in October 2020, there have been over 100,000 rides taken, and over 246,948km travelled in the Weca area.
In Bristol there have been over 86,327 rides taken by over 19,275 unique riders with over 207,111 km travelled.
In Bath there have been over 17,325 rides and 5,557 unique riders with over 39,837 km travelled.
Mayor of the West of England Tim Bowles said:
“The West of England has really embraced our e-scooter trial and I’m pleased that many more people will now have a chance to benefit from this low-carbon alternative to the car for short journeys to access essential work and services.”
“E-scooters are part of our transport plans for the region alongside MetroBus, MetroWest rail network and plans for a regional mass transit, to make it easier to get to the jobs and training opportunities that will secure our recovery.”
South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet member for regeneration, environment and strategic infrastructure, Cllr Steve Reade, said:
“We are really pleased and excited to see the West of England e-scooter trial launch in South Gloucestershire. During the pandemic we have seen many people adopt greener travel choices, especially for local journeys, and e-scooters will only continue to encourage this.”
“E-scooters provide yet another low-carbon alternative for people who need to travel and support our Climate Emergency goals, as well as our ambitions to reduce congestion and emissions, improve air quality and keep South Gloucestershire moving.”
Weca has also recently introduced long-term e-scooter rentals that can be stored at home and used by residents across the whole of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire, giving unlimited access to cost-effective and socially distanced transport, within the entire geofenced Weca area.
The long-term rental service is available on a monthly basis and is currently priced at £35 per month.
For more information, visit the ‘E-scooter personal lease‘ page on the Voi Scooters website.
Rules and safety measures
The following rules and safety measures apply for the Weca e-scooter trials:
- Only e-scooters that are hired or leased through the Weca trial can be used legally on roads, cycle lanes or cycle tracks
- E-scooters cannot be used on pavements or parked in a way that disrupts pedestrians or causes nuisance
- Using GPS technology, there will be no-ride zones and slow-speed zones for some areas
- All e-scooters will have clear number plates to help identify riders
- Driving licence and identity checks will be required
- Voi ambassadors will be present on the streets to enforce safe behaviour
- Ambassadors will work with Avon and Somerset Police to restrict or ban non-compliant users
How to contact Voi Scooters in the UK:
- t: 0800 376 8179
- e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reporting illegal use
Concerned about e-scooters being used on pavements which are not designated for use by cyclists?
- Report the illegal use of a public right of way (Avon and Somerset Police)
Reporting dangerous driving
Have you witnesses dangerous driving by an e-scooter rider?
- Report an accident or incident on the road (Avon and Somerset Police)
Reporting other concerns
Voi’s support channels for the general public to report incorrectly parked scooters or for any other questions or concerns are:
Government guidance (on GOV.UK)
- For users of the official trial scheme e-scooters: E-scooter trials: guidance for users
- For users of privately owned e-scooters: Powered transporters
- For local authorities and rental scheme operators: E-scooter trials: guidance for local areas and rental operators
General feedback about the West of England e-scooter trial should be sent to
— JimsWheels (@JimsWheels) February 12, 2021
@voitechnology your scooters have been left in a dangerous spot by your employees in Bradley Stoke on Baileys Court Road. On Fri 12th there was one scooter today (13th) there are all these blocking the pathway preventing mobility scooter and pram users pic.twitter.com/lDXw3htHw6
— Neil Curry (@NeilSKN) February 13, 2021
Update: Where are you allowed to ride?
Added 11th March 2021.
The slide below was shown by senior Voi officials at a videoconference hosted by South Gloucestershire Council on 25th February 2021.
Despite the clear statement “Travel wherever cycles are permitted”, some members of the public have reported being told by Voi customer support staff that use of the trial e-scooters on shared-used paths, i.e. intended for use by both pedestrians and cyclists, is not permitted.
However, a senior PR manager at Voi UK has confirmed to the Journal that the statement given at the presentation is correct and so the trial e-scooters may be written on shared-use paths, specifically those marked with the blue signs shown below. As stated in the slide, local geofencing can be used to enforce exceptions to this general rule.
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