Scooters will park on roads, not pavements, in new scheme

A new e-scooter rental scheme in Bristol will see parking spaces move onto roads in designated spots instead of on pavements. The new rental scheme, expected to be brought in around spring or summer this year, will likely also include electric bicycles as well as e-scooters.

Swedish company Voi has operated rentable e-scooters in Bristol in a trial beginning in October 2020. 

But the scheme could soon be taken over by a new company, as the West of England has asked operators to bid for a long-term contract across the wider region.

Bristol City Council is planning to address some issues on “parking and rider behaviour” with the current Voi e-scooters by shifting parking spaces from virtual spots on pavements onto clearly marked areas on the road. The cabinet signed off these plans in January.

A cabinet report said: “It’s proposed to formalise rental parking hubs, bringing them under Bristol City Council control and physically marking the parking locations. The current model of unmarked virtual parking spaces on pavements selected by the e-scooter operator resulted from the original trial being set up at short notice, and only being planned to run for 12 months.

“With government plans to legalise e-scooters and for rental schemes to operate in the longer term, a more effective parking management regime is required. It’s proposed that the majority of parking hubs are sited on roads rather than pavements. Designs for low-cost on-road parking hubs are being developed based on designs currently used in London.”

Pavement parking will still be used where this doesn’t obstruct pedestrians and where parking wouldn’t be possible on the road, such as on busy routes in the city centre. The shift is expected to take some time to roll out, as the council still needs to find funding for new on-road parking hubs.

Voi will carry on running e-scooters in Bristol until a new contract for the scheme starts, so there will be no gap in provision. Council chiefs are keen for the new scheme to include e-bikes as well, potentially attracting a wider range of people and for longer journeys.

The cabinet report said: “A significant number of operators have expressed an interest in setting up e-bike rental schemes in Bristol. Adding e-bikes to the rental market will improve the range of travel options for residents and visitors, and will extend the benefit of the current rental scheme to a much wider range of people.

“E-bikes are better suited for longer trips and tend to be used more by older people than e-scooters, as well as having health benefits through active travels. A number of other UK cities already have combined e-bike and e-scooter schemes.”

The e-scooter rental trial in Bristol and South Gloucestershire is the most popular of the 31 trial areas across the country, with more than 7.3 million rides or 19 million kilometres of travel since the scheme began in October 2020.

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service