Who is Voi?
Voi are the fastest growing European-born operator working with Europes leading cities and operators to offer seamless, affordable transport solutions including e-bikes and e-scooters. Voi currently operate in 45+ cities in 11 countries having started in 2018. Northamptonshire is the first area to trial Voi e-scooters in the UK.
Why did Northamptonshire apply for scooter trials? And what regulation do e-scooters follow?
This Government is implementing a transport revolution. Safety remains our top priority when setting the rules for e-scooter use. Regulations will allow e-scooters to use the same road spaces as bikes, including cycle lanes. A trial e-scooter may be used on roads with a speed limit of 30mph or lower and in cycle lanes, within the approved trial geographical area, unless not authorised by the local area, as signposted to users through the app.
There are offences and penalties for using an e-scooter illegally. Users can be fined up to £300, have 6 points put on their driving licence, and the e-scooter can be impounded. All e-scooters are GPS tracked at all times and usage monitored. NCC is working closely with Northamptonshire Police as part of the trial.
Does this mean that private scooters are also allowed?
No, private e-scooters are not allowed. Trials are limited to Voi rental e-scooters. This allows trials to take place in a controlled manner whilst we asses their safety and other impacts.
How sustainable are Voi's scooters?
Voi's e-scooters are a safe and sustainable choice of transportation. Shared e-scooters are an important catalyst for people to leave their cars behind when travelling in dense urban areas. With their life span of +5 years the carbon dioxide is only 35q Co2 eq. per passenger-km. To put into context, for a car it is more than 120 per person per km.
Voi scooters, with their swappable batteries, are a game changer when it comes to green operations as they can be changed on the spot instead of transporting entire scooters back and forth to Voi's warehouses. This allows for greener operations, with fewer service trips connected to charging and deploying scooters. The batteries can also be transported with lighter electric vehicles such as cargo bikes, charged with renewable energy.
Voi have also pledged that we will recycle scooter parts wherever possible and recycle all materials used in the vehicles. Voi as a company have been operating carbon neutral operations since January 2020.
How do you integrate with public transport?
Voi are currently in talks with various transport operators across the county and will announce these partnerships as soon as we can. Our aim is to integrate fully with transport services across the area and we are working closely within Northamptonshire to achieve that as well as to promote active travel through the Smart Move Northamptonshire initiative and in line with the need for social distancing on public transport.
What does it cost to use a Voi?
£1 to unlock + £0.20 per minute. Voi also offers 24hrs and 30 day subscriptions that allow users to take an unlimited number of rides at a fixed rate. The subscription can be purchased in-app.
How can I ride a Voi e-scooter or e-bike safely?
For us, even one accident is an accident too many so we take safety extremely seriously. We believe in tackling safety through rider education. New riders can earn credits from completing modules of #RideLikeVoila traffic school. To date more than 500K users across Europe have visited the traffic school. Riders also quickly learn important tips from our apps.
In city centres, the main cause of accidents is cars, with 8/10 accidents involving a car. That is why we want to see infrastructure adapted to make safe routes for cyclists, scooter riders and pedestrians. Changing how we move around city centres will free up space for people to get out of cars.
How can I keep safe from Coronavrius using an e-scooter or e-bike?
Since scooters operate in the open air they are a much safer choice for commuters than other forms of enclosed public transport at this time. They are available 24/7 in Northampton to take account of various shift patterns and offer an alternative to public transport and car sharing for travel to and from work.
To make sure our fleet is safe we have increased our cleaning and maintenance frequencies. We are rolling out Shieldex® Copper-Tape on handlebars, which is designed to kill 99.98% of coronavirus on contact, and all scooters are disinfected every 24 hours. Voi is also providing COVID-19 information and advice in its app. We encourage riders to use gloves if that makes them more comfortable.
How do I get started using an e-scooter?
To get started, users can visit the Voi web page or download the Voi app.
Will I need to wear a helmet?
Helmets are not compulsory but it is safer to wear one, just as you might when cycling. Voi believes in education and rewarding safe and responsible behaviour, and is currently developing an in-app feature where users will get rewarded with a discounted ride if they submit a helmet selfie in connection with the ride.
Will I need a driving licence?
To ride an e-scooter in Northamptonshire you will need, as a minimum, a provisional driving licence. This can be obtained in one week, through an online application and will be required as part of the registration process. Without this, the user will not be able to access the e-scooters. In the Northamptonshire trial, users must also be at least 18 years of age. This will be checked on application.
What will Voi do to keep Northamptonshire safe for those with visual impairments or hearing difficulties?
At a national and local level we are working closely with associations such as RNIB and Disabilities Move UK to ensure that we understand the needs of as many vulnerable people as possible. In Northamptonshire we will elicit feedback from these as well as other relevant groups within the first few weeks of launching the trial, so that we can make sure Voi's operations do not ass to street clutter or cause obstacles.
What will Voi do to keep streets safe from e-scooter clutter?
We will work with Northamptonshire County Council and other partners to make sure there are clearly designated parking areas for e-scooters, through technology and incentives. We manage our fleet daily to make sure that it is not causing clutter and will be able to quickly identify any problem areas where we can look at initiatives to prevent it happening in the first place.
Anyone can report an e-scooter which is causing an obstruction by calling the customer service helpline 08003768179 or by emailing [email protected]
E-scooter users travel at high speed and pose a danger in traffic for other road users. How are they safe?
- Voi's e-scooters are capped at 15.5 mph as per UK regulation. Regular bicycles often reach the same speed or higher
- We also have the ability to implement slow speed zones in selected areas, where the e-scooters automatically slow down to walking pace. These will be closely monitored and new slow speed zones added where it will be beneficial
- It is important to differentiate between private and shared e-scooters. Private ones remain illegal unless on private land and can often get up to a much higher speed, even though it is not permitted. Voi e-scooters are restricted to 15.5 mph maximum and are limited even further in slow speed zones
How will you prevent people from riding under the influence?
- Education, #RideLikeVoila. Voi is developing an in-app reaction time test that is activated during certain hours of the weekend days. The test aims to educate users on why drunk riding is unsafe (impacts reflexes, balance, overall judgement), and to make them consider alternative modes of transport if they get poor results in the reaction time test.
- Users have a huge responsibility, not only towards themselves but towards other road users and pedestrians.
- There is also much we can do with geofencing such as implementing no parking zones in areas where many bars are located.
How are users insured when using Voi scooters?
Our users enjoy peace-of-mind from an incident perspective and through our insurance company Zego, we have the - as required by legislation - Motor Third-party Liability coverage. In addition, we have also chosen to go beyond the Dft's requirements and have included a Personal Accident Coverage insurance for all trips of a fully comprehensive motor vehicle insurance for third-party liability and the driver of the scooter through our insurance partner Zego, included in all journeys.
What are the main benefits of e-scooters for Northamptonshire?
- Get people out of cars, by providing a socially-distanced, outdoor mode of transport that is convenient and affordable
- Provide convenient and flexible travel for point to point journeys, or for the first or last mile to public transport and support the aims of the wider Smart Move Northamptonshire initiative
- It has a lower environmental footprint - with huge potential to improve air quality and reduce climate change
How many e-scooters is Voi proposing to bring to Northamptonshire?
- In Northampton, the trial will commence with 300 e-scooters. This reflects the tighter initial operating zone around the central area. The number of e-scooters will increase as the operating zone extends. In Kettering, the trial will start with 100 e-scooters. Again, this will grow as the trial operating zone extends across the town.
- Voi will be guided by what areas need and work closely with them to make sure that we only put e-scooters that are needed, where they are needed. We will cater to demand but always be careful not to overwhelm locations. Our local team will relocate e-scooters throughout the day ('rebalancing') to ensure that they are available in the locations at the times where people want them
Is there demand for e-scooters in the UK?
- Even before COVID-19, councils were talking about e-scooter sharing because they want to get people out of cars and to use low-carbon transport
- More than 50 cities and towns have expressed an interest in running e-scooter pilots. These include London, Liverpool, West Midlands, Manchester, Newcastle, Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Southampton. Northampton is one of the first in the country to start the trial.
- We know that many UK residents have tried Voi in other countries and have asked us when we will launch in the UK
How do you think e-scooters can help solve the transport problems in towns and cities?
- E-scooters are just the start of a revolution in how we move around towns and cities
- This is personal, point to point travel which means that you are not tied to a timetable or a route. In Northamptonshire they are available 24/7.
- Given the COVID-19 pandemic, they provide a safe, clean and green alternative to public transport and car sharing
- E-scooters are particularly useful for connecting the last or first mile of travel, when there can be a temptation to use a car or taxi and for journeys of 1 to 3 miles, which make up 60% of all road trips in the UK
- E-scooters allow people to experience a town or city and look around them. Riders are out in the open air, where they are less likely to catch COVID-19
- Our aim is that they should be affordable, particularly for those who need to go further than they can walk and don't have access to a car
How do you propose to keep e-scooters safe while COVID-19 is a risk?
- Keeping our riders safe is our number one priority. Our scooters are disinfected at least every 24 hours, every time a scooter is handled for a battery swap, rebalancing or maintenance. High quality antivirals are used that last up to 24 hours.
- Our mechanics and logistics teams are equipped with sanitary kits including masks, gloves and antibacterial gel and follow social distancing guidelines
- Product innovation: We are testing a new handlebar material in France. Shieldex® Copper-Tape is a tape that inactivates 99.98% of Coronaviruses in minutes.
- Regular bacterial and viral samples: Using reputable third parties, we take viral and bacterial tests of randomized samples of scooters to make sure we are keeping things clean
- We educate our users about how to keep themselves safe and encourage them to use hand sanitiser and wear gloves if possible.
What patterns of scooters use are you seeing in Europe, where cities have unlocked earlier that the UK?
People are using more scooters in the suburbs close to their homes. They use them to go for slightly longer distances now, often from residential areas to office locations and/or shopping centres and hospitals.
Are e-scooters really good for the environment?
Transport is Europe's largest source of Greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution levels exceed safe levels in many European cities. Like other electric vehicles, e-scooters can help to limit transport emissions as well as reducing congestion in cities. The UK is particularly suitable for e-scooters because 60% of car trips here are for 1 to 3 mile journeys. Improvements to e-scooters, which now last a minimum of 60 months, and swappable batteries mean that each scooters life cycle cost is also 71% lower that it was when the last major assessment was done in California two years ago.
Wont e-scooters just be a menace on the streets and dangerous for some road users, e.g. the visually impaired?
It is our job to educate riders about traffic rules using technology and pop-up stands, where it is appropriate. In town centres, the main cause of accidents is cars, with 8/10 accidents involving a car. That is why we want to see infrastructure adapted to make safe routes for cyclists, scooter riders and pedestrians.
Safety is always our number one priority and we tackle this through rider education and technology. We were the first e-scooter company to have an online traffic school, Voila, which we will launch in the UK.
We will work with councils to control the number of scooters on the streets and their locations. We can incentivise people to park them correctly and we will employ local people to educate users on riding and parking safely. Our local teams will work closely with police to make sure that the scooters are not a menace for other road and pavement users, particularly groups who may feel that they are at high risk.
Who do I contact if a scooter is misplaced or blocking traffic?
If you are unable to quickly move the scooter yourself we have a customer service helpline 08003768179 and a support email [email protected] where people can call us and report any issues.