City leaders reveal more details of e-scooter trial planned for Sunderland
An e-scooter rental scheme is set to launch on Wearside in time for the spring after winning support from city leaders.
Following backing from Sunderland City Council’s ruling cabinet this week, the trial is set to go live on March 1 and will run for eight months.
Evidence gathered from the trial will guide Department for Transport research and any future decisions on legalising the use of e-scooters.
The trial will be run by a specialist provider, with Sunderland’s pilot aiming to cover key employment, education and tourist/leisure routes.
This includes a link between the city centre and the hospital/university, via Chester Road, and links from the city centre to the seafront and Seaburn Metro Station to the seafront.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, gave an update on the scheme at a cabinet meeting on February 9.
“I personally think that if we’re serious about having our green credentials we must be doing all we can to try and maximise those by giving people an ability to move around the city that does not involve the car or being on a bus,” he said.
“Linking the seafront into the city centre and through to the hospital I think is an ideal pathway to see what will come out of the trial with the e-scooters.
“There will be teething problems it is a pilot but I’m hoping that by the time we get to November 2021 the e-scooter trial has worked and is showing us that this is an area that we can do more with.
“I’m determined to ensure that this city council gets to being carbon neutral as quickly as possible and that we remember that the city wants to be carbon neutral by 2040. If at all possible, it would be brilliant if we could do it any quicker.
“This is about the future for our children and our grandchildren and e-scooters may be a very small part of that but it’s the direction of travel that’s important here.”
Safety features are key part of trial
The trial would be an app-based system where users download an app and register details with the operator before hiring the e-scooter.
The e-scooter provider will have responsibility for the supply, rental and maintenance of vehicles, the health and safety of users, and insurance cover for theft and vandalism.
Helmet use will be encouraged and a number of safety features will be built into the e-scooters, including curfew hours, GPS tracking and ‘geofenced zones’ to ensure they are only used on designated routes.
This includes alarms sounding and motors being cut-off if scooters are detected on footpaths or in other ‘no-go areas’.
In the context of Covid-19, scooters could include ‘self-cleaning handlebars’ to prevent the spread of the virus between users.
In addition, scooter speeds will also be reduced to 5-6mph in ‘high pedestrianised and sensitive areas’, councillors were told.
‘Long-term vision for transport in Sunderland’
On Wearside, selected routes will be designed to use as much off-road existing cycling infrastructure as possible to protect the users from needing to ride on the highway.
Scooter riders would also have to confirm they hold a valid driving licence, either a full or provisional motorcycle or moped licence, to take part in the trials.
Cllr Miller added the scheme would help inform decisions on the “long-term vision for active travel in Sunderland.”
And the only costs to the council, he explained, would be related to council officer time, advertising and the associated costs for making and displaying notices for traffic regulation orders, which can be met from existing budgets.
Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, cabinet member for Dynamic City, said the trial would play a part in the city’s drive towards carbon neutrality.
“I just want to welcome this report as we move forward to try and be a carbon neutral city and also look at ways we can move around the city as it regenerates and obviously spreads,” she said.
“To be part of a trial for anything shows that we’re such a forward thinking council and a city.
“I really welcome this, especially the routes that have been chosen [such as] along the seafront, it’s the jewel in our crown as a city.
“But also our anchor institutions in the city being included, the university and the hospital.”
A specialist operator for the e-scooter trial will be appointed following a procurement exercise.
Rental pricing is to be agreed, but discounts could be offered for students and key workers.
According to a report prepared for cabinet, the geofenced areas within the trial could also join with South Tyneside Council “should partnership working be considered in future.”