VOI scooters outside BRI

Electric scooters – last mile solution?

The Voi electric scooter hire trial has been expanded to cover a larger area or Bristol. Could electric scooters help solve the ‘last mile’ problem, making it easier for people to access trains and buses?

The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) are the body in charge of delivering rail service improvements throughout the Bristol area, including the MetroWest Phase 1a ½ hour service between Avonmouth and Westbury which will likely happen in December 2021.

WECA are also leading on other transport initiatives.  The West of England is one of only four Future Transport Zones in the country, set up to trial new transport technologies to cut congestion, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. 

Since October 2020, electric scooters can be hired in Bristol, for legal use on roads (30mph or less), cycle lanes and cycle tracks.  Privately owned scooters remain illegal to use, other than on private land with the landowner’s permission.

Area of Voi scooter hire trial

The initial trial, covering the central area only, deployed 100 scooters. This has now been expanded into Horfield, Clifton, Bedminster, Victoria Park, Easton and Eastville, and scooter numbers are expected to increase to 750 and ultimately 2000 as the scheme grows.

Voi uses GPS geofencing technology to enforce the operational zone boundaries, no-ride zones and slow-speed zones.  Maps of the trial area, including parking zones, slow-ride zones, no-ride zones and real-time location of scooters are all available in the Voi app. 

Outgoing West of England mayor Tim Bowles said: “Alongside MetroBus, our transformational MetroWest rail network and plans for a regional mass transit, we’re making it easier to get to the jobs and training opportunities that will secure our recovery.”

Nuts and bolts

On Tuesday 5th January 2021, the scooter cost 99p to unlock and 14p per minute to use. There are a variety of subscriptions available, including discounted passes for students, key workers, and those on low-incomes.

To hire a scooter riders must have a provisional driving license and be at least 18 years old.  Riders must photograph the front and back of their driving license when setting up the Voi app, prior to scooter unlocking. 

The scooters are speed-restricted to 10 mph, or slower in some areas, but the speed limit will be upped to 12.5 mph when people get used to them.

It is recommended, but not compulsory, that riders wear a cycle helmet and hi-vis clothing.

Voi app screens
Voi app screens showing the area of Bristol in which electric scooters are currently available, and a detailed street plan to allow users to locate a scooter.

Rail/electric scooter interchange in Bristol

Voi state that there will be groups of scooters in designated parking zones at key locations such as train stations, university campuses, hospitals and large places of work.  The scooters are charged and redistributed nightly. Parking zones for the scooters are designed to keep them from obstructing pavements.  These zones are often adjacent to clusters of yellow YoBike hire bicycles.

The only Bristol railway stations that are in the current operational scooter zone are Clifton Down, Redland, Montpelier, Stapleton Road, Lawrence Hill, Bristol Temple Meads, Bedminster and Parson Street. 

StationNearest scooter parking zone
CliftonWhiteladies Road
RedlandRedland Grove
MontpelierJunction of Station Road and Cheltenham Road
Stapleton RoadJunction of Fox Road and Stapleton Road
Lawrence HillNo nearby parking zone
Bristol Temple MeadsIsambard Way or Temple Gate
BedminsterJunction of Fraser Street and Windmill Hill
Parson StreetNo nearby parking zone

Stapleton Road, Lawrence Hill and Bristol Temple Meads are on the eastern boundary of the operational zone, so scooters would only be useful for Centre-bound journeys.  Of course, there is no guarantee that a scooter will be available in a parking zone at the time a passenger disembarks from the train!

For the scooter scheme to be truly useful for onward travel for rail (and bus) passengers, a wider operational zone is needed to cover more of the city, together with more convenient scooter parking zones near transport hubs, including Bristol bus station, and a larger number of scooters to improve availability.

Where possible scooters are being located near stations, but at the time of writing no agreement had been reached with Network Rail or GWR to allow scooters to be located on their land.

Voi electric scooter outside Montpelier Station, Bristol
Voi electric scooter outside Montpelier Station, Bristol

The scooter roll out is at an early stage; let’s keep a watching brief.

Lockdown 3.0

Voi scooters will continue to operate during the January 2021 lockdown, as they are perceived to be a method of essential travel in a safe and socially distanced fashion.  Scooter cleaning frequency has been increased, and riders are recommended to use antibacterial gel before and after riding.

NHS workers have free access to Voi scooters until the end of the third national lockdown.

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