The government has given the green-light for local councils to get moving with trials of rental e-scooters from this Saturday, 4 July 2020.

The roll-out of the trials, which I mentioned in my post of 12 May 2020 (available here: https://shoosmiths.passle.net/post/102g72o/e-scooter-trials-five-challenges-for-first-movers), aims to test the benefits of rental e-scooter use on roads, cycle lanes and tracks.

According to new guidance published by the government ahead of the trials (available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-scooter-trials-guidance-for-local-areas-and-rental-operators/e-scooter-trials-guidance-for-local-areas-and-rental-operators), the government believes that e-scooters have the potential to offer fast, clean and inexpensive travel, while also helping ease the burden on transport networks and allow for social distancing.

Just how quickly councils and e-scooter operators will be able to put plans for individual trials in motion remains to be seen. In my original post, I pointed to a number of obstacles that could slow the roll-out of the trials. The new government guidance deals with some of these obstacles, but there are still a number of issues that may prove to be speed-humps to swift implementation.

PR problems and redistribution concerns: I noted that many existing cycle rental schemes have experienced problems with control and re-distribution of bikes, and that rental e-scooter schemes might suffer similar problems. The government is not setting any hard-and-fast rules to deal with this problem. Instead, its guidance simply advises councils to specify areas where trial e-scooters can be parked and, where a dockless operating model is being used, councils are told to ensure that e-scooters do not become obstructive to other road users and pedestrians.

Data difficulties: I pointed out that e-scooter users’ personal data will need to be handled in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation and other applicable privacy laws. The guidance leaves data protection matters to the council and the e-scooter operator to resolve. The guidance simply states that local areas may wish to specify additional requirements for data-sharing between the local area and e-scooter operator, and ‘agree on access separately as part of their procurement processes’.

Regulatory wrangles: The government guidance is clear on how the law will be changed to allow the e-scooter trials to begin. The guidance states that e-scooters will be defined as a sub-category of a motor vehicle. This will be achieved by issuing vehicle orders under the Road Traffic Act 1988 for vehicles of operators assessed as being suitable to participate in trials. Some rules are, however, staying the same. E-scooters in trials will need to be covered by a motor vehicle insurance policy. It will almost certainly fall on the operator to ensure a policy is in place that covers users of its e-scooters. Further, e-scooter users will need to have a valid driving licence. The guidance recommends that operators offer training courses on how to use e-scooters, but is silent on how any training – and any licence checks – will work in practice. There is no requirement to wear a helmet (and the government will amend the law to allow for this), but some councils may still make it a requirement in their contract with the operator that helmets must be available to users at the point of hire.