Micromobility - grocery deliveries come full circle?
Posted on 27th March 2019
The news, reported last week, that the government is actively considering allowing electric scooters (and possibly similar devices - e-skateboards etc.) to use Britain’s roads and pavements is, in my opinion, broadly, to be welcomed but with certain caveats. If nothing else, anything that reduces the number of cars and vans on city streets can only be a good thing, especially as pollution in key streets in our cities is, how can I put this, bogging.
The laws that relates to traffic and transport is antiquated in the extreme and doesn’t allow what are called ‘micromobility devices’ to travel on the road or the pavement. And when I say ‘antiquated,’ I mean really old – even older than certain members of the Be-IT marketing team (of whom more later) – with some dating back nearly two centuries. Bear in mind that two centuries ago we didn’t have many cars (but did have a lot of horses), and you can see how legislation might not be up-to-date.
Of course, the media reported this news in different ways. The Scotsman decided it was a bad thing, probably leading to what they described as creating a “dangerous cocktail” of riders and other vehicles, while the Metro took a more neutral view, the Telegraph were similarly playing the issue with a straight bat (albeit more enthusiastically than the Scotsman) and the Guardian, which might have been expected to endorse the lack of pollution from these things, was slightly more negative about the risks.
That there are risks is undoubted. An elderly person hit by a powered scooter could be – and in Spain has been – killed. As a result, Madrid has banned the things. Other research shows over four people being killed in the States and over 1,500 accidents in the last year alone caused by e-scooters. It’s also been noted that horses are spooked by e-vehicles, because they don’t hear them coming. Admittedly, horses, when in the wrong mood, can be spooked by a crisp packet, but that doesn’t lessen the danger to them and their riders.
That said, are we really going to stop making changes to anything because there are risks to everything? Remember that in the early days, a man had to walk in front of a car with a red flag to warn pedestrians of its approach.
Of course, there are more vehicles than ever before, but if we could reduce the overall speed of them all – which e-bikes/scooters would do, especially if their speeds are regulated – then we make the urban environment safer. We also open up the possibility revolutionising the so-called “last mile of delivery,” as noted in the Telegraph:
“The Department for Transport, in its Future of Mobility Urban Strategy document, also published today, points to one study in which zero-emission battery-powered cargo bikes, with a capacity of up to 480 litres and a payload of 125kg, were used by the supermarket Sainsbury’s to deliver internet order to customers’ homes.
“A single bike was able to fulfil 96.7 per cent of orders a van could, with shorter journey times and quicker doorstep delivery - because they could park closer - while also helping improve residential traffic flow.”
Which brings me back to Methuselah in the Marketing team at Be-IT. In his youth, boys in their early teens would deliver groceries for corner-stores by bicycle, with a large framework welded to the front to take boxes of goods. We might just get back to a modern version of this, but there is only one fly in the ointment. The Department for Transport, which is analysing how regulations might be updated to allow all this to happen, just happens to be run by Chris Grayling, whose track record (sorry!) has not been exactly fantastic in recent years….
Michael Phair, Be-IT
Posted in News, Opinion
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