With the public skeptical of the introduction of e-scooters across the UK, TIER Vice President Fred Jones explains his company’s steps to make its vehicles safe for all road users, winning some hearts and minds during the London e Roller test.
London joined the e-scooter party this week when a test of micromobility mode began in several London neighborhoods. The British capital is noticeably absent from the worldwide rollout of e-scooters; Perhaps Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT) decided instead to bide their time and learn from a distance about the potential challenges that scooter rental can bring.
“Competitive and rigorous”
Whatever the reason for its late arrival, London has now entered the e-scooter market by selecting three operators, Lime, Dott and TIER, to participate in the study. “As it should be, the process was extremely competitive and rigorous, with bidders being judged primarily on security and critical areas such as responsible parking, sustainability and accessibility. There were also vehicle tests where the e-scooters were put through their paces by TfL for days, ”Fred Jones, Vice President and Regional Manager of TIER, told Intelligent Transport.
“London is a leading city in terms of transport technology and we are delighted that we have been able to meet TfL’s strict criteria,” he added.
It is not uncommon for more than one e-scooter provider to be active in a large city – in Berlin alone there are five companies that rent out the vehicles. This, of course, requires a certain amount of cooperation between competitors, but that was not what Jones was looking for. “In addition to Dott and Lime, we also work together in Paris and have a good working relationship with both of them,” said Jones.
“We also work closely with TfL and the many participating districts to ensure the smooth integration of e-scooters into the traffic mix and to comply with the highest safety standards throughout the city.”
Security is the key
Safety was a priority for everyone involved in the London process. E-scooters have a pretty bad reputation in the UK, fueled in part by their illegal use by private owners on public roads and sidewalks. But other than that, the public will have seen pictures of Paris streets littered with scooters or read stories of accidents that occurred when rented scooters were driven through busy sidewalks.
All of this is perhaps a little unfair, and Intelligent Transport has spoken to some of the biggest names in the e-scooter industry in the past about safety and changing public perceptions – you can’t help but sense that TfL and the three operators must get it right first time in london.
“In terms of design, the TIER scooters are the safest; They are built with a variety of industry leading safety features that minimize risks to the driver and the public, including flashing lights, shock absorbers and the largest front wheel on the market. They also have triple brakes and a double stand that put TIER at the forefront of braking distance and wind change tests, ”said Jones.
“In addition to the design of our scooters, we have also integrated several functions to further increase their safety. In early 2021, we teamed up with Busby, the micro-mobility safety app, to create a rapid response system in the unlikely event that drivers were involved in incidents on the road.
“We have also teamed up with Lazarillo, the world’s leading navigation app for the visually impaired, to offer blind and visually impaired pedestrians more protection and improve safety standards. In order to further improve the protection of unprotected road users, we have also committed to introducing an acoustic alarm on our scooters that warns blind and visually impaired people that a scooter is approaching. This was done in collaboration with the national charity Thomas Pocklington Trust and will be added to our fleets this year. “
Win hearts and minds
There is hardly any discussion about the fact that TIER and other scooter operators take the safety of their vehicles and other road users very seriously. Ultimately, all of the world’s security features will be of little use if the public isn’t around. So how does TIER intend to reassure Londoners that their city’s newest mode of transport will benefit everyone?
“We pride ourselves on our safety record, and in our first six months of operation in the UK and tens of thousands of journeys, there were no injuries to drivers or pedestrians,” said Jones.
“However, we understand that some people, especially from vulnerable communities, have concerns about the adoption of e-scooters and at TIER we have taken several steps to mitigate this.
“Last year we convened a TIER UK Safety Board to raise the bar for safety standards across the e-scooter sector. The board is made up of independent road safety, accessibility and low vision experts who challenge our approach to safety to ensure we maintain best practices. “To keep people calm, we have teamed up with DriveTech from AA to set up our Ride Safe School. This also includes the very first e-scooter theory test. The theory test guides drivers through skills such as operating and parking TIER e-scooters and safely sharing certain routes with other vehicles, pedestrians and unprotected road users, ”added Jones.
E-scooters go nowhere. They have proven themselves as a last-mile solution and are clearly anchored in the plans of many large cities to make their transport networks more diverse and sustainable.
However, it is clear that both authorities and operators still have some work to do to convince the general public of the benefits of the mode. TIER has demonstrated its commitment to this change in mindset, as have undoubtedly the other two operators TfL selected for the trial. But the next six to twelve months will be important to the future of e-scooters in the UK capital, and everyone involved knows they need to properly plan this deadline in order to achieve widespread acceptance of e-scooters as a legitimate and viable form of travel for all.