Swedish micromobility company Voi has been appointed to operate e-scooters as part of the UK trials in the West Midlands in what is being described as Europe’s largest exclusive e-scooter tender.
Birmingham and Coventry will initially start with 200 e-scooters each, with demand monitored by Voi – working closely with local authorities. Soon after, the scooters will be deployed in Sandwell (West Bromwich), Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Warwickshire.
The tender process, which was started last month by Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), concluded with the contract being offered to Voi as the sole operator. Voi launched Europe’s first dockless e-scooter service in 2018 and now operates in 45 cities across 11 countries.
The public will initially be able to access and ride e-scooters within the immediate vicinity of Birmingham and Coventry’s city centre, with an ambition to expand the trial zones as the trial progresses.
For the purpose of the trial, the DfT requires a maximum speed of 15.5 mph on roads. In pedestrianised areas a lower speed limit of 5 mph will be applicable. E-scooters are allowed on any 30 mph or less road, however the council have advised users to use designated cycle routes wherever possible.
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said: “The West Midlands is proud to be leading the way on future transport development, and it is great to be able to partner with Voi and reveal our plans for e-scooters across the region.
“E-scooters will help bring more flexibility, choice, and greener travel solutions for the West Midlands, at a time when we are facing a climate emergency and urging people to leave the car at home. E-scooters unquestionably offer a healthier, more environmentally friendly, alternative to the car for shorter journeys around our towns and cities, which will in turn help to ease traffic congestion and tackle air pollution.
“As well as the improvements to our transport network, e-scooters could also be a much-needed boost for the region’s economy, helping to attract people back into our town and city centres.
“It is a great coup for the West Midlands to be at the forefront of the Government’s e-scooter trial, and I look forward to continuing to work with Voi and local authorities to make sure we maximise the potential of e-scooters across the region.”
In a bid to promote e-scooter safety, Voi will provide in person and online rider education, provide rider identity verification and will make RideLikeVoila – its online traffic school – available to users in the West Midlands.
Lucy Yu, Voi’s Director of Public Policy, said: “In the UK, 60 per cent of car journeys are between one and three miles, which significantly increases congestion. Cars no longer suit the way we live today, and we estimate that 20 per cent of short journeys could be replaced by low-carbon e-scooters with a minimum five-year lifespan. E-scooters provide a compelling alternative that will outrun the car.”