COVID-19 has affected society in unprecedented ways. One of the more unexpected effects has been a strong governmental push to advance with legalisation of e-scooters for use on public roads. Whilst this has been on the cards for some time in accordance with the desire to promote greener travel, the COVID crisis has brought the topic to the top of the agenda. As part of a Government trial, it is now legal to use a rental e-scooter on the public road from Saturday 4 July. This will help commuters socially distance and travel in way that is more environmentally friendly than using a car.

Rental schemes for e-scooters are already well established around the world but there are some features of the UK trial that are worth noting. For example in the UK e-scooters are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles – meaning they are treated as motor vehicles. As such users must have a driving licence and the rental operators will need to ensure an insurance policy is in place. The government intends to amend the Driving Licences Regulations to permit people to apply for a provisional licence in order to use an e-scooter, thereby opening up the pool of potential users to those aged 16 or over. E-scooters will be allowed to use the same road space as bikes, meaning they can use the road (other than motorways) and cycle lanes – pavement use is prohibited. Local authorities will be able to prohibit the use of rental e-scooters use in areas where they think their use would be inappropriate.

Local authorities wishing to allow rental e-scooters in their area must submit a proposal to run an e-scooter trial to the Department for Transport for approval. If approved, the trials should commence before the end of August and we have already seen a number of local authorities advertising market engagement opportunities and/or publicising their intention to conduct a competition to find an e-scooter operator. It is up to local authorities to choose the appropriate procurement route – for example some contracts may be entered into directly, others may trigger a requirement to run a regulated competition under Public Contracts Regulations 2015 or the Concession Contracts Regulations 2016 and some authorities may wish to use shorter than usual timescales. E-scooter operators would be well advised to ensure that they are positioning themselves to respond to market testing events and able to respond nimbly to quick procurements, or secure direct awards where this is permitted under the procurement rules.

Read more information on the e-scooter trial

Bevan Brittan advise local authorities and private providers on contracting and procurement issues and have an extensive CV in technology and transport procurement and contracting.

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