THE first e-scooter trials in the UK are set to start this month in Darlington, Teesside and Hartlepool.

New regulations allowing e-scooter rental schemes come into force tomorrow.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority is running a pilot, with e-scooter company Ginger, which is set to be rolled out later this month, with 100 of the battery-powered vehicles located across the area. 

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are leading the UK in new, clean and innovate technologies. E-scooters are a part of that.

“I have been a big fan of e-scooters for a very long time, and when the Government announced their plans to fast track their introduction, it was obvious that our region should be the first trial area.

“So, I am thrilled that the UKs first trail on e-scooters on UK roads will take place across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”

The Department for Transport has fast-tracked and expanded trials of rental e-scooters as part of plans to support a green restart of local travel and mitigate reduced public transport capacity.

Describing them as “fast, clean and inexpensive”, the government is pushing them as a way of helping people get across towns and cities while easing the burdon on transport networks and allowing for social distancing.

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On Tuesday, the Government said it expected the first trials, which will last 12 months, to start next week. 

Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: “As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way that could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities across Great Britain.

“E-scooters may offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing.

"The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.”

The change in legislation means e-scooters which are part of the trial will be permitted where bikes are allowed, on roads, cycle lanes and tracks where possible.

Draft legislation implies that riders must be over 16 years old and have at least a provisional driving licence.

Riders are advised to wear helmets. 

They will be limited to travelling at 15.5mph and will be prohibited on pavements. 

Mr Houchen had previously called on the Government to make the region a trial area to determine whether the battery-powered vehicles could be used more widely, as a clean energy, socially distanced alternative to other forms of transport following the coronavirus outbreak.

He added: “Today’s move shows that Government is just as passionate as I am about clean innovative forms of travel and making e-scooters widely available as a clean energy, socially distant mode of transport which will help get our workers moving safely again and give our businesses a boost following the coronavirus pandemic.

“It has been fantastic working with a forward-thinking company like Ginger to make this trial a reality, and to be able to do it in such a short period of time shows just how committed they are to making e-scooters more widely used.

"I am also pleased that by working together we have been able to make using e-scooters cost effective with the price of a ride competitive with other forms of public transport.”

“We are already a forward-thinking region, at the forefront of clean energy and developing the technologies of the future with the Net Zero Teesside carbon capture, storage and utilisation scheme. Thanks to this decision, we’ve been rightly recognised for our innovation and in how we can lead the UK in doing things differently.”

How will the Tees Valley trial work?

Details of the pilot are still being finalised.

But Mr Houchen said the e-scooters will be located across every local authority area, with 100 e-scooters initially involved in the trial.

At the start of the trial each parking location will be strictly geo-fenced so users must leave their e-scooters in these locations at the end of the ride, with Ginger responsible for the charging of scooters.

As the trial progresses, the company will look at introducing on-street charging and docking locations.

Chief executive Paul Hodgins said “I am delighted to be introducing Ginger e-scooters to the Tees Valley as part of the pioneering Government scheme to trial this exciting new form of transport.

“I strongly believe micro e-mobility offers unique solutions to today’s transport challenges.

"It is great that the Tees Valley mayor and the transport secretary are making this public pilot the first in the UK, choosing to work with Ginger, a British innovator and transport provider.”