Plans to bring hundreds of electric scooters to streets of Rochdale given green light

Date published: 11 February 2021

A scheme that will bring hundreds of electric scooters to the streets of Rochdale has been given the green light.

An operator for the 12-month trial will now be sought via a tender process after it was signed off by the council cabinet.

The pilot is set to begin before April and focus on the area around the railway station and other key town centre locations.

The e-Scooters are dockless – meaning they do not have a permanent ‘home’ – but must be returned to a designated parking zone at the end of each journey.

The scheme will use a combination of GPS tracking and photo identification. Riders must have a full or provisional driving licence.

Rochdale Council had the go-ahead to develop an e-Scooter trial after submitting an expression of interest to the government last summer.

A recent report to the council said e-scooters would bring a host of benefits to the town.

These include easing the pressure on public transport during the pandemic and providing an alternative to short car journeys.

It is also hoped the trial will act as a ‘stepping stone’ for those who want to make more journeys by bike.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday night, Councillor Kieran Heakin said it was a ‘brilliant’ scheme and he was looking forward to Rochdale emulating cities from Oslo and Barcelona to Bath.

“It reduces car use, climate emergency, sustainable travel – it just ticks all the right boxes – I’m very impressed with it,” he said.

The scooters will be limited to 15mph – and below in certain places – while there will also be ‘no go’ zones in areas where their use is deemed unsafe.

Councillor Heakin praised the safety features stipulated for the vehicles – including front and rear lights and a horn or ‘audible warning’.

And he asked whether an artificial noise could potentially be fitted as a further measure.

“We are used to listening out for cars and bikes and moving out of the way,” he added.

Councillor Sara Rowbotham – cabinet member for climate change and sustainability – said the pilot would be closely monitored to ensure it was ‘working for everybody’.

Responding to Councillor Heakin, she said: “I absolutely agree with you – it’s the future. Loads of areas have done it before us so there’s lots of stuff we can learn from other local authorities.

“We still have ambitions to be an age-friendly borough, which means paths and routes are accessible.”

She added: “We really do have to be mindful that not only are people walking, they are using their scooters, so I think the emphasis is on that it’s a trial.”

Councillor Rowbotham stressed that the safety of pedestrians and other users would be as much a priority as e-Scooter riders.

“We are trying it out, we are going to make sure it’s safe and accessible and it’s useable for everybody and it doesn’t inhibit anyone else from using the roads or pedestrian walkway,” she said.

“We are going to keep our eye on it really closely and make sure it works and it works for everybody.”

The contract for operating the trial will now be put out to tender.

One firm sure to be among the bidding is Bolt, which runs electric bike, scooter and car-sharing schemes across Europe.

Last month its UK boss Matthew Barrie said the company ‘very much’ wanted to be a partner for Rochdale, not just for the duration of the trial but in the longer term.

If selected the company would aim to start with a roll-out of between 200 to 450 scooters, in a ‘cautious approach’, before scaling up or down with demand.


Zwings is one of the operators bidding to run the pilot


British operator Zwings is also among the first candidates. It is working with 7 towns and cities with e-scooters and will soon introduce more e-bikes to support a growing list of counties across the UK.

Joe Lewin, CEO and Founder at Zwings said: “We are deeply passionate about winning this opportunity. We very much hope that the Rochdale community will welcome a homegrown operator to spur British enterprise.

“In our research, the Zwings team has developed a detailed understanding of the local environment and how we can most seamlessly integrate our service into the community. We have identified key focal points and transport patterns that we can personalise our service around.”

Should the Rochdale trial be deemed successful the council would seek to continue the scheme for a further six months.

This would allow for a longer-term contract to be put in place and roll out a wider project to other locations across the borough such as major employment sites, transport hubs and district centres.

The cost of running the scheme will fall largely on the successful bidder.

However, the council has put £20,000 aside for any necessary traffic regulation orders and a further procurement process if necessary.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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