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Lessons from Tel Aviv

When our electric scooter shop and workshop opened in London and Brighton in 2017 Brits were electric scooter novices. There were barely any electric scooters on the roads.

When our electric scooter shop and workshop opened in London and Brighton in 2017 Brits were electric scooter novices. There were barely any electric scooters on the roads. The only sightings of significance were kids on micro scooters. Itzik had come from Tel Aviv – which is a city on two wheels – and he could not believe that the UK did not have electric scooters. So, he jumped in, negotiated an exclusive distribution deal and built the electric scooter retail market in London. There is always nervousness around new things and trailblazing usually carries elements of risk but he actually found the reception was very positive on balance and he learned a lot about rider needs and what a really good scooter must offer. So, he gave up the exclusive distributorship and started to design and manufacture his own scooter.

Electric scooters are now far more prevalent in the UK and on the whole have been welcomed in the UK. They are efficient, clean and cool to ride. There is clearly a distinction between pay to play scooters and ownership. Commuting time is on average at 74 mins per day for a Londoner – according to Instant Group. Scooter sharing schemes charge a £1 unlocking fee and anywhere between 0.15 and 0.23 per rental minute. A 30 minute scooter ride will cost you about £7. You could spend up to £140 per month on a rental scooter if you are using it regularly and relying on it as your method of transport. A privately owned electric scooter can cost anything between £500-£2000. When you do the maths it is far more cost effective to own your scooter rather than renting.

I think attitudes here are still a mixed bag – while there are definitely more users the UK still suffers from nimbyism. Unlike other countries and cultures sometimes it feels like we Brits put our nose up at everything. We enjoy our freedom to shout ‘no’ and there are many naysayers when it comes to legalisation for scooters. Fears around safety for pedestrians rather than investment infrastructure to assist safe scooter riding. Doubtless, clear guidelines must be drawn up for the use of privately owned electric scooters and the use of rental electric scooters – there should be no differentiation between the two in terms of regulation. The scooters themselves must be safe – dual brake, inflatable tyre (better grip and more reliable ride quality than solid tyres) and speed limiting. Helmets are an entire debate in themselves.

There are countless lessons to learn – from Tel Aviv and elsewhere. When scooters were first legalised in Israel, only 3 years ago, there was little control over where they were ridden – the pavement seemed most popular. When scooter sharing arrived there were ‘dead Birds’ littering the streets. Trailblazing I reiterate can be risky but we in the UK can leverage on the Israeli knowledge and experience. Educating drivers so they expect to see and take care to avoid scooter riders. No pavement riding. No riding the wrong way up the street. Making sure riders ride safely, using the bike lanes and wearing helmets at all times. Scooters for rent in Israel today come with an integrated helmet and must be docked legally or riders are banned from riding again.

In the UK we need to make sure electric scooters fit certain standards so they are properly fit for purpose and safe. They are not toys! And should be manufactured and ridden as vehicles!

Let’s get privately owned electric scooters legal in the UK.