In our latest blog, David Aimson from the Buckinghamshire Live Lab and Jake Harrison and Ryan Procter from the Staffordshire Live Lab talk about their e-bike and e-scooter trials to promote active travel and reduce short vehicle journeys within their communities.
David: In Buckinghamshire, we are installing e-bikes on either side of the Greenway, a 5-6km long traffic free route which connects Aylesbury Vale Parkway Station and Waddesdon Manor, one of Buckinghamshire’s largest attractions. It was envisaged that this location would mean that any tourists arriving by train from London could cycle the last few miles to the Manor without contributing to traffic volume on the road.
Ten of the e-bikes have already been installed at Waddesdon Manor, but the remaining ten due to be installed at the station have been delayed due to the construction of a COVID-19 Testing Centre. Use of the bikes already installed has also been severely impacted by the reduced rail services, closure of the Manor and stay at home messages, on top of some recent bad weather.
Currently, Buckinghamshire does receive weekly statistics from the bikes detailing how far they travelled, where they travelled and how much income is generated etc. However, once lockdown restrictions are lifted Buckinghamshire will get the opportunity to fully measure how successful these bikes will be.
As with normal bikes, the e-bikes are not geofenced and can be used on roads with no additional restrictions. Unlike e-scooters which require a driving licence due to the presence of a throttle for power, the e-bikes are not classed as motorised vehicles. The technology in the bikes has advanced to the point that they are classed as ‘electrically assisted’. However, the electric motor will not assist the user at speeds over 25km/h. E-bikes can be deployed in the same way as normal bike rental schemes, where users will sign a safety wavier to confirm they will abide by the laws of the road and that protection will be worn if they have it.
The business case for the bikes going forward will depend on the cost, usage and value of the bikes. As there are very few bikes installed, any potential carbon savings will be minimal, but the business case formed at the end of the Live Labs project will consider any potential carbon reductions for a scaled up number (approx. 100 bikes).
Since August 2020, our bikes have been used over 215 times to travel over 2,000km. Even though the success of our bikes has yet to be determined, the scheme has given local communities the opportunity to reduce the number of car journeys in an inclusive form of active travel which people of all fitness abilities will be able to use.
As a result of the e-bikes projects through the Live Labs, we have managed to install e-scooters around Aylesbury Vale town centre with a company called Zip, externally to the Live Labs programme.
Jake and Ryan: In Staffordshire we launched a set of Dragon’s Den-style challenges to address a core problem in mobility – to provide sustainable and responsive transport solutions to facilitate 1-5 mile journeys, without reliance on private vehicles, to and from a mobility hub. Out of the approx. 60 mobility-related responses, the e-scooter providers rose to the opportunity and were brought into the programme.
We currently have two different locations where our e-scooters have been deployed. In Stafford, we are working with e-scooter provider Ginger to increase our deployment of e-scooters from a current total of 85 up to a maximum of 150. In Newcastle-under-Lyme we are working with Zwings to increase our current deployment of 65 e-scooters up to a maximum of 150.
Our Live Lab trial of e-scooters is exciting in that we have focused on studying micro-mobility in rural locations, whereas most e-scooter trails in the UK are focused on urban areas. In a rural context, we have the opportunity to drive modal shift in locations where the majority of people are reliant on private vehicles for most local journeys.
The Staffordshire Live Lab has been working to understand how successful the e-scooters are in driving a modal shift and reducing car usage, and how reliable they are as a form of public transport. We are also looking at what price points they will need to operate at to be competitive against public transport without the requirement for a public subsidy. We will analyse types of journeys, run surveys, and use mobile data/ONS and mosaic data to determine the full impact of the e-scooters within the communities in terms of modal shift.
The trials haven’t been without their challenges. As well as pausing the trials due to recent bad weather, we have also been severely impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns limiting journeys to essential rides only. Even so, we have recorded close to 40,000km worth of journeys and the data will only get better in the coming months once we start to see lockdown restrictions lift.
Alongside the challenges, we have had many positive outcomes over the trial period. In the open and collaborative spirit of the Live Labs, in Stafford we have been the first programme in the UK to work collaboratively with a local hospital to offer NHS workers free rides from November-March.
Another really critical part of the Live Lab programme is the use of data to drive innovation. As part of our outcomes, we will be developing a deployment toolkit for mobility hubs and e-scooters. We have deployed our own e-scooters based on a methodology of analysing key area demographics to identify locations in which uptake of the e-scooters will be most successful. If proven effective, other local authorities will be able to replicate this methodology of selecting locations for deployment based on data, which will ideally be backed up by local knowledge.
The Department for Transport will end its trial period for e-scooters in the second half of 2020, and will determine if they are to be legalised or not.