- Electric scooter firms could finally enter the British market after the UK government announced a review of some of its oldest transport laws.
- Electric scooters are currently illegal in Britain due to 1835 legislation, originally aimed at restricting the use of horse-drawn carriages.
- In a statement sent to Business Insider, the head of Bird in the UK said he is “delighted” with the government’s announcement.
Bird, the $2 billion electric scooter startup, has welcomed a British government review of the country’s transport laws, which could see an array of electric vehicles allowed on British roads for the first time.
Electric scooters are one of many so-called “micro-mobility” vehicles banned from road use in the UK. The ban derives from an 1835 law originally aimed at preventing horse-drawn carriages causing “nuisance.”
In a paper published on the UK government website, the Department of Transport said it “will consider options for appropriate testing regimes for micro-mobility.” It also vowed to identify “basic parameters for safe design and operation of new vehicles, such as electric scooters.”
The government’s decision to launch the review – which aims to establish how electric and autonomous vehicles can reduce traffic in city centres – comes amid widespread concern about pollution levels in British cities, notably London. –
The capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, plans to introduce an “ultra-low emission zone” in central London, meaning that high-emissions vehicles which drive within a specific radius will be charged.
In a statement emailed to Business Insider, the head of Bird in the UK, Richard Corbett, said “cities around the world are already reaping the benefits of innovative forms of transport such as electric scooters,” adding that they create less congestion and pollution than motorized vehicles.
“We’re delighted by today’s announcement and we’re looking forward to working with the government to make our cities greener, safer and more liveable for everyone,” Corbett added.
Bird and Lime have been quietly lobbying to pilot scooters in the UK, according to emails obtained by Business Insider. “What I cannot understand is why London (the powerhouse of the UK) cannot lead on this with Bird,” Corbett said in one message, seen by BI.
Bird is already testing its scooters in the UK at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. It is allowed to operate the scooters within the park because it is private property that is neither pavement nor a road. There are currently around 50 scooters available to members of the public between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Launched in San Francisco in September 2017, Bird operates scooter-sharing services in over 100 cities, most of which are in the US and Europe. An investment round in June last year saw it valued at $2 billion.
Bird’s main rival is Lime, which was founded in January 2017 and has received investment from companies such as Alphabet. According to Bloomberg, it was valued at $1.1 billion as of July 2018. As well as electric scooter-sharing, Lime also provides car and bicycle-sharing services.