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Boris Johnson Must Stop the Hamster Wheel of Doom – Starting with Electric Scooters

January 1, 1970 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Boris Johnson has been talked up as Britain’s first likely
pro-freedom prime minister since
Margaret Thatcher
. He burnished those credentials further in
this week’s TV debate, “peddling optimism” by
making the case “with renewed power and conviction” for
“a dynamic market economy”.

Let us consider a specific litmus test of whether Boris will
live up to his pro-market promise.

A crystal-clear examination of whether he will take us off
“the hamster wheel of doom” associated with excessive
regulatory precaution, or rather embrace the permissionless
innovation, risk-taking, and proportionate regulatory reaction
associated with free-market credentials: will Boris give the
green-light to electric rental scooters in the UK?

Across US and Western European cities, including Washington DC,
Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Munich, companies compete in
delivering these services.

Starting in the US, fleets of scooters have arrived in cities,
delivered Father Christmas-like from venture capital-backed Silicon
Valley tech firms with four-letter names.

Operated through smartphone apps, these small, motorized
vehicles can be unlocked then rented by the minute. Dockless and
tracked using GPS, they have obvious appeal given they are
inexpensive and versatile for short journeys, or for tourists
marveling at cities’ landmarks.

Unsurprisingly, use worldwide is sky-rocketing. Yet here,
antiquated laws have killed the market before its British birth.
The 1835 Highways Act prohibits motorised scooter use on pavements.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 effectively bans them on roads, given the
DVLA’s requirements for roadworthy vehicles.

Given ownership is legal, police time, particularly in London,
is spent chasing private use in public spaces, while corporate
rental activity is effectively banned bar a small scheme in the Olympic
Park
.

Though former transport minister Jesse Norman previously
flashed some leg on legislative
change
, the Government seems to be prevaricating to devise
comprehensive legislation, rather than taking a permissive approach
that would regulate when problems arise. Given the environmental
and transport challenges the country faces, such cautiousness is a
self-inflicted mistake. The potential benefits are huge.

The 2017 National Travel Survey showed 68pc of people’s
trips are under five miles, making electric scooters highly viable,
and a counter-force against congestion. In international cities
such as Tel Aviv, residents are already flocking to them to escape
traffic jams.

Results of a four-month pilot study in Portland, Oregon
highlight this potential for car-to-scooter substitution too. Just
over a third of resident users there and 48pc of visitors said they
took a scooter instead of driving a personal car or using Uber,
Lyft or a taxi. That brings a potentially large environmental
dividend.

Electric scooters are incredibly energy efficient, due to their
light weight. One operator, Lime, reports the company worldwide has
“prevented more than 8,000 metric tons of carbon …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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