Published: 10:34, 03 June 2021
| Updated: 16:34, 03 June 2021
A city's controversial trial of rental electric scooters has today been massively expanded for a second time.
The Canterbury scheme previously covered the city centre, but has now been broadened to encompass peripheral areas outside the city including Thanington, Hales Place, Wincheap and Harbledown - along with a stretch of the A28 heading in the direction of Sturry.
Swipe to see the area now included in the trial zone, compared to the area previously covered
Canterbury's trial - launched by Kent County Council and headed up by e scooter rental firm Bird - began last year.
The rental scooters were initially available for use on a restricted route between the city's universities, but the trial was significantly expanded in March to cover the city centre and there have since been about 150 Bird e scooters available for hire across the area.
Today, the final stage of the city's scheme has been rolled out.
Charlotte Bailey, general manager of Bird UK said: “This further expansion is testament to how well people in Canterbury have taken to the service.
"It’s great to see our mission coming to life with so many trips starting and ending at local transport hubs. We hope this further expansion will mean even more residents are able to think twice before jumping in their cars for short trips or their commute.”
Canterbury's trial - one of 31 taking place across UK towns and cities as part of a Department for Transport project - has proven controversial.
Some have praised the scheme and its green credentials, as the trial aims to provide a greener alternative to driving cars.
Meanwhile Bird says about one in 10 Canterbury residents have so far downloaded its app and used the service - clocking up a total of 50,000km in rides around the city. The firm also claims that data shows the service is helping people to leave their cars at home.
But many have criticised the scheme and raised concerns over safety of the vehicles, which can travel up to 15mph.
Last month, Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, warned inconsiderate e scooter riders are becoming a "menace" and that "too many people are using them in places they shouldn't".
He called for the trials to be halted and reviewed before they are expanded further, to ensure the government does not "lose control of the issue".
But Bird stresses there are key differences between privately-owned e scooters – which remain illegal to use in public spaces, and for riders under 18 – and those used in the government trials.
Other critics of the Canterbury scheme include city councillor Dave Wilson, who feels dedicated bike and scooter paths must be created to "safely accommodate things travelling at up to 15mph".
Responding to today's expansion of the trial, leader of the Canterbury City Council, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, spoke in favour of the scheme.
He said: "Cutting the queues, reducing car use, improving air quality and fighting climate change are at the heart of a raft of the council's policies so I am really happy to lend my support to the extension of the e scooter scheme which aims to do all of those things.
"People choosing two wheels over four is always to be applauded and I am glad there are lots of ways Bird makes their users stick to the rules including the clever use of technology.
“I also want to remind everyone that it is only the Bird escooters that can be used on our public highways.
"Other e scooters cannot be used legally and those chancing it will could find their scooter gets confiscated by the police.”
To use the trial e scooters, one must download the Bird app onto a smartphone and create an account, with a full or provisional driving licence required.
The app can then be used to find the nearest available scooter, unlock the vehicle and begin a trip.
Once a journey is finished, Bird users are asked to leave the vehicles in a "responsible place" before ending the trip in the app.
An initial KCC consultation into the e scooter trial has now closed, but a second one is due to open today.
For more information, visit KCC's website.