- United Kingdom Transport Minister Jesse Norman said the government will review mobility laws, including rules that currently restrict the use of electric scooters. In a report on the future of urban mobility, Norman wrote that the government wanted to take advantage of "revolutionary technologies creating huge opportunities."
- Under current U.K. law, scooters are classified as motor vehicles, and the U.K.'s Highways Act of 1835 bars such vehicles from sidewalks. Due to these laws, e-scooters are effectively banned in the majority of the U.K.
- According to the report, the regulatory review will consider “appropriate testing regimes for micromobility,” and will lay a path to allow for new technology to be tested “without the need to change legislation each time.” However, a government spokeswoman told Bloomberg there are not plans to write legislation legalizing scooters, but only to review current policy.
London has been grappling with congestion; citing government statistics, the new urban mobility report says congestion cost the U.K. economy 2 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) a year. That’s led to London Mayor Sadiq Khan making alleviating congestion a key part of his smart city strategy, including a push to make areas of the city car-free. In a Transport Strategy, published last May, Khan wrote that “London must become a city where walking, cycling and green public transport become the most appealing and practical choices for many more journeys.”
But those efforts have been hampered by the outdated rules barring some micromobility options, which have restricted scooters to only limited trials, like Bird’s pilot that ran entirely on private land in the city's Olympic Park. Alternatively most U.S. cities have been inundated with dockless scooters and bikes, offering users new options to make first mile/last mile trips or find alternatives to driving.
It’s unclear what exactly the government will do, and how much leeway it will give to dockless options. The government has notably had friction with Uber, which briefly lost its operating license in London and has faced public scrutiny over its labor practices and impact on traffic. Still, companies applauded the decision, with Richard Corbett, the head of Bird in the U.K., telling Bloomberg that he was “delighted” by the regulatory review.
Mobility companies have eyed the U.K. market; a report commissioned by Uber-owned Jump found that a dockless e-bike network could convert some 813,000 daily car and transit trips in London to bikes, a sign of the potential that new mobility options hold there.