NEWS / Blog / E-Scooters: A transport triumph for the Greater Manchester region?


08 MAR 2023


In light of Decarbonising Transport Week (6 – 10 March) ACE Emerging Professional Alexandra Mather of WSP, who is currently seconded at Transport for Greater Manchester, reflects on the promotion of E-scooters in Greater Manchester.

I don’t know many of my peers who haven’t become animated when discussing e-scooters – whether or not they were used on holidays abroad, through private ownership or for some of my fellow Greater Manchester residents, when the scheme finally came to Salford in 2020.

Salford, Greater Manchester became a part of the trial in October 2020, and due to its popularity and success, the trial has since been extended. E-scooters can be used within the region from Salford University, Salford Quays and Salford Royal Hospital, with access ending at the boundary with Manchester City Council.

The scheme is supported by Salford City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and Salford University and e-scooters within the scheme can be used in cycleways and shared footways. Lime Scooters are fully responsible for implementation and operating costs.

The Department for Transport is trialling the use of e-scooters all over the UK, with the aim for results to guide future policies surrounding the legality of the transport method. Currently, in the UK, privately owned e-Scooters are illegal to use in public spaces outside of the current trial areas.

With the Bee Network and the Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040 at the forefront of travel scheme considerations in Greater Manchester, it must be questioned – do e-scooters help or hinder the aims of the region?

There is a range of aims within the region. The Bee Network is Manchester’s vision for an integrated transport system similar to that found in London – incorporating buses, trains, and trams along with cycling and walking to promote active travel and make routes accessible for all.

The 2040 Vision for Transport recognises the changes needed to accommodate long-term challenges that Greater Manchester faces – climate change, an ageing population and social inequalities. A part of this vision is the “Right-Mix” vision – for 50% of trips to be made by sustainable modes, with no net increase in motor vehicle travel, by 2040.

With all this investigated - does the introduction of e-scooters within the region work towards the visions and aims of Greater Manchester? Or is it a hindrance towards the goals? Should e-scooters be introduced in more of Greater Manchester’s regions permanently? The following discussion piece aims to conclude these questions.

E-Scooters in Salford – the trial so far

In Salford, Greater Manchester, Lime trials have proven popular amongst locals. From data collected by Lime, approximately 80,000 residents made 400,000 trips since Oct 2020 – predicting this has replaced 100,000 car journeys.

Their use is straightforward - to unlock the e-scooter for use, users are required to use a QR code provided by the Lime Scooter app once an account has been set up by users. The initial price to unlock the vehicle is £1 and then 15p per minute onwards. To complete the journey, vehicles must be parked in an appropriate place and a photo must be taken using the app of its placement. Those choosing to use public e-scooters are limited to a maximum speed of 15.5 miles per hour and must hold a full or provisional driving license which is scanned by the app, to unlock. Users must also be over the age of 18.

Recently, Lime reported that the Salford e-scooter scheme averages 7,000 trips per week. 80% of the trips are riders who have previously used scooters from the scheme.

Further research is needed into just how environmentally friendly e-scooters are, and whilst not as environmentally friendly as walking and cycling, e-scooters have up to three times fewer emissions than a car, per mile.

From research conducted in 2019, it was argued that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to a notable extent if scooters have increased design lives and charge durations.

Currently, it takes four hours to charge a Lime Scooter which can run for around 20 miles on a single charge. The replacement of car journeys in favour of e-scooter usage promotes more environmentally friendly travel modes – and half of the respondents noted that they had used a lime e-scooter in place of at least one journey that would’ve been made in a car – whether that be driving, passenger or taxi use.

From data provided by Lime scooters, it was found that users chose to make journeys by e-scooter for the following reasons;

  • Faster travel
  • Reduced journey time
  • Accessibility of destination – the opportunity to make journeys door-to-door
  • More affordable than a car
  • Less physical exertion than a bike

With a focus on the accessibility of the final destination, however, there is potential for e-scooters to interface with other modes of transport. Journeys could be used as a dual-transport method with public transport as an alternative to a single-car journey when considering short to medium-length trips, increasing the sustainability of trips and decreasing the number of motor vehicle travel – a step in the right direction for the Right Mix vision.

E-scooters also play into key aspects of the 2040 Transport Strategy – these being the promotion of healthy, reliable, and environmentally friendly transport.

Potential issues with e-scooter usage

Certain aspects of e-scooter usage raise concerns concerning the aims of the 2040 Transport Strategy – for transport methods to provide safety and inclusivity.

There are considerable issues that have been identified with the transport mode. These include limited manoeuvrability, access to those without specialist ‘skill’ to use (only a provisional license is required), and the noise – or lack thereof – that can warn pedestrians of their approach.

These factors raise questions about the safety of riders and pedestrians. Whilst researchers at Salford University are investigating how sounds to indicate approach could be incorporated, this does not address the safety of e-scooters currently in use within the city.

E-scooters have also been described in some senses as “street clutter”, with concerns raised for the safety of visually impaired pedestrians.

From previous research conducted by transport professionals throughout 2021-2022, it was discovered that e-scooter usage is more likely to replace active transport modes such as bicycles or walking.

As there has been debate about whether or not e-scooters can be classified as active – it is not the user creating the motion but instead, an internal motor – this replacement of transport method has the potential to negatively impact active travel aims.

It has been noted that men and younger people are more likely to use e-scooters. The method of transport is not inclusive of several groups within Greater Manchester, most notably those with mobility issues, however, it is important to note that the addition of e-scooters within the region is an addition to existing transport modes rather than an alternative – methods of transport for those with mobility issues are still available.

Final thoughts

Taking into account the snapshot view of e-scooters within Greater Manchester – from data provided by Lime discussed in the article, the future vision of the region and the success of the Salford trials, I believe that the implementation of e-scooters is a positive step towards the 2040 Transport Strategy to encourage the use of a dualling system between e-scooters and public transport methods on short to medium length journeys.

They provide a more sustainable option in comparison to car journeys and with 24-hour accessibility and door-to-door travel as walking, whilst offering the increased journey speed of public transport. There is also huge potential to exploit dual-travel modes when paired with other public transport forms to reduce motor vehicle travel in the region.

I am aware that there is a range of aspects not considered within this piece – such as vandalism, potential loss of patronage to existing modes, safety concerns and just how the trials would fare being held in Manchester city centre itself - in which further research would further determine the future of the scheme.

Following the success of the Salford trials, I believe the consideration of e-scooter trials in other Greater Manchester regions – such as Stockport, Wigan or Rochdale, is a step in the right direction for the aims of the region.

Emerging Professional Alexandra Mather, of WSP, is currently seconded at Transport for Greater Manchester.

Alexandra Mather

Alexandra Mather

Assistant Project Manager

Alexandra Mather is Assistant Project Manager at WSP.