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Opinion | The unavoidable truth: Voi scooters need to stay

There have been around 2.5 million Voi journeys in Bristol since October 2020, the highest number in any Western European city.

Ananta Evander, International Relations, Master's Student

Roughly 900,000 of the 2.5 million Voi journeys in Bristol have replaced short car journeys, contributing towards the reduction of an estimated 480 tonnes of CO2. They are clearly popular and environmentally friendly – what’s not to like?

Improving personal wellbeing, bettering air quality and supporting redevelopment of the city are just a few of the benefits of keeping Voi scooters for good.

In terms of personal wellbeing, e-scooters encourages us to engage with the surrounding community and environment. The engagement with greenery, as well as other individuals throughout the journey, are effective ways to establish mindfulness after a long day of study.

It also reduces social isolation and physical inactivity-related diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. E-scooters don’t cause physical burnout as walking and cycling do but they allow the user to breath fresh air. They also have a higher rate of physical movement compared to traveling by car.

In terms of improving air quality, Voi’s have proved effective in replacing car journeys for short-distance travel. In the last few years, there have been concerns over worsening air-quality conditions in Bristol. The usage of electric-based PMV’s (personal mobility vehicles) causes fewer carbon emissions compared to similar journeys made by fossil fuel-based cars.

Voi's are more than a millennial joy ride experience

The reduction in car journeys will indirectly lead towards a declining number of road accidents and pollution-associated diseases such as heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections in children.

Voi’s are also more than a millennial joy ride experience; they have the potential to shape Bristol’s future transport network. The positive responses to the trial scheme suggest that it has become an attractive transport alternative for short-distance travel, along with the city’s bike loan incentive.

It also can play an essential role in supporting Mayor Marvin Rees’ vision to enhance the city’s transportation system and to regenerate neglected areas. This is especially true given that Voi’s can provide commuters with an alternative travel option once the Clean Air Zone scheme begins to charge high-emission vehicles entering the area.

Moreover, it can become a connector between the user’s final destination and the planned mass rapid transit system such as MetroBus expansions and the planned Bristol Underground.

In a post-pandemic world, Voi’s can support re-development efforts in neglected areas such as Broadmead and Temple Quarter. They provide accessible transport options for those who may not be able to afford cars, increasing social mobility and access to jobs in other parts of Bristol.

They have the potential to transform life in Bristol

To utilize the potential of the permanent fixture of e-scooters, Marvin Rees’ plan should integrate various transportation options (including PMVs and walking) into all of the city’s development efforts.

Unfortunately, Voi’s have their downsides: they pose potential dangers towards both pedestrians and those with disabilities.

The reckless usage of e-scooters has occasionally undermined the safety of Bristol’s streets. Several accidents have been caused by speeding and intoxicated driving.

Disability advocacy groups have also raised concerns regarding e-scooters’ failure to warn people with impaired vision or sight. To address the situation, Voi introduced several additional safety features such as ‘end-of the ride’ photo confirmation and helmet selfie within the app. They have also held a safety workshop events.

However, Tier (another e-scooter operator based on London) has gone further, adding an alert sound in their e-scooter fleet to warn those with disabilites. This reminds us that many safety features are currently optional for private companies, potentially increasing risks for pedestrians.

If they are going to stay, they must be legislated for properly

Both Bristol City Council and Department for Transportation must determine the standard safety requirements for all e-scooters. In terms of legal enforcement toward abusers, the local council and e-scooter operators should organise data-sharing agreements to identify and prosecute those misusing the scooters.

Voi's have the potential to transform life in Bristol. They allow us to re-engage with the surrounding environment and to indirectly reduce carbon emissions in the air, improving our mindfulness and physical wellbeing.

But if they are going to stay, they need to be legislated for properly. Safety, as they say, comes first.

Featured image: Voi Scooters

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