In this series, City A.M. looks at the financial and economic impact of the ongoing pandemic on a range of small and medium-sized businesses across London. This week: How an e-scooter startup from Slough plans to conquer the capital as it is taking advantage of favourable post-pandemic government policies.
Electric scooters are increasingly a common sight on London’s streets. The government was quick to pass legislation, in July of last year, to bring forward planned trials of rental e-scooters.
As a result, trial schemes have been springing up across the country with London’s own e-scooter trial set to begin later this year. Unlike their privately-owned cousins, which remain illegal on public land, rental e-scooters are subject to strict regulations to ensure they are used safely and responsibly.
Socially distanced travel
Until the London trial starts, the nearest place you can legally ride an e-scooter on public land is just outside the M25, in Slough. The scheme is being operated by Neuron Mobility, a startup that specialises in rental e-scooter services.
The pandemic has given e-scooters’ place in society a major boost, according to George Symes, the UK expansion manager of Neuron Mobility.
“E-scooters are the perfect mode of transport for the post-pandemic world. They allow for socially-distanced travel and are also more sustainable than car journeys, which they have somewhat been replacing.” Symes told City A.M.
Since the scheme launched in October of last year, the company has experienced a healthy appetite for the use of e-scooters.
“In the first month alone, we had thousands of riders signing up, who made tens of thousands of trips. Data shows that the many e-scooters are serving as first and last-mile solutions to the daily commute, and helping to take cars off the roads,” he said.
Symes added that his firm found that around 38 per cent of e-scooter trips have replaced a car trip.
“People have found they unlock new ways of making essential trips. 67 per cent of all trips on our e-scooters have a purpose, so for example running errands or going to the shops, and 46 per cent of trips were for commuting.”
The pandemic ride has, so far, not been without challenges. The rise in Covid-19 cases over the autumn and winter had an impact on rider numbers.
Despite lower usage, Neuron continued to operate. “Unlike our competitors, most of which were quick to take their e-scooters off the streets,” Symes pointed out.
When the second lockdown came into effect, the company began offering free monthly passes to all NHS and emergency service workers, giving them unlimited journeys to ensure they could carry out their essential roles.
The decision was easy to make, as Symes mentioned that “the main reason e-scooter trials were introduced by the government was to provide safe and sustainable alternatives to existing travel options so it would have been completely against the spirit of this to suspend operations when they were needed most.”
As a result of Covid, Neuron had to step up their hygiene efforts.
“We have teams working round the clock with hospital-grade disinfectant to keep e-scooters and helmets clean and germ-free and make sure they are moved to where they are needed most.”
London’s own e-scooter trial is set to begin in the next few months, with TfL working alongside London Councils to select three operators for the 12-month scheme. Roughly a third of London’s boroughs have expressed an interest in taking part.
Looking to the future, Symes is confident that 2021 will be the breakthrough year for e-scooters in the the capital, as that is where Neuron ultimately wants to be.
“All these trials are giving the industry a wealth of data about how safe e-scooters are, the impact they can have in reducing car journeys and, most importantly, how popular they are with people looking for new ways to travel,” he noted.
“When the official trials end later this year, we’re confident e-scooter rental schemes will be expanded nationwide,” Symes concluded.