What is e-micromobility?

And can it change the way we travel?

The universities of Brighton, Leeds and Oxford have come together to work on a research project which will look at e-micromobility (electrically powered scooters, bikes, skateboards etc.) and whether it can change the way we travel. 

What exactly is e-micromobility?

Micromobility is a term used to describe modes of transport suitable for short distances that use little or no power. Micromobility usually refers to small, lightweight, frequently single-person vehicles, but it can also include vehicle-free transportation such as walking or running. Traditional pedal bicycles and scooters are forms of micromobility.

E-micromobility refers specifically to those vehicles powered by small electric motors. Here in the UK, we’re most likely to see e-micromobility in the form of e-bikes (including e-cargo bikes) and e-scooters, but there are many forms of this type of transport, with new forms developing all the time. Segways, hoverboards, go-peds (combustion engine-powered kick-scooters), powered unicycles, and u-wheels are also all forms of e-micromobility.

Some of these sound pretty far-fetched as serious forms of transport. Are they legal?

In the UK, privately owned e-micromobility vehicles are illegal to use on public roads and paths, including cycle lanes. The exception to this is electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs), commonly known as e-bikes, which are covered by different regulations.

If they’re illegal why do we see e-scooters in use in some cities?

The UK government Department for Transport looked into the use of e-micromobility by trialling the use of e-scooters in 55 locations around the UK, through approved rental schemes. In those locations it remained illegal to use a privately owned e-scooter but legal to rent one.  So, the current legal situation in the UK means that private ownership of most forms of micromobility is limited.  Again, the exception is e-bikes and e-cargo bikes which can be ridden on roads whether privately owned or through hired through a rental scheme.

Where does the ELEVATE research project fit in?

ELEVATE project researchers want to know: could e-micromobility be a practical alternative to car use?  Can it realistically make travel feel easier and more active, while in the process, reducing carbon emissions?  To answer those questions the project researchers will be asking neighbourhoods in Leeds, Oxford and Brighton & Hove to share their views on e-micromobility via a survey. They will then offer residents in those neighbourhoods the chance to try one of the legal modes of e-micromobility – an e-cargo bike – for one month.