As the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic begins, cities everywhere are having to change the way they think about transport. Bristol is no exception.
As people gradually return to a version of normality, we already know that transport capacity in the Bristol area will be under intense pressure.
It was already at breaking point before the pandemic.
Now, with social distancing measures in place, bus and rail operators will be running at around a quarter of their normal capacity, forcing many people to look for alternatives and, inevitably, towards their own vehicles.
New studies predict that the number of cars on UK roads could exceed pre-lockdown levels as people avoid public transport, following the same trend we’ve seen in other cities around the world where car use is already above previous peak levels.
If this were to happen in Bristol, it would undo the good work that’s been done to reduce traffic and improve air quality.
It was only February this year that Greta Thunberg came here to join climate protesters, placing Bristol and its policies towards decarbonisation under a global spotlight.
However, earlier this month, researchers from the University of Bristol published a report stating that the city will fail to be carbon neutral by 2030 without a major shift towards active and sustainable travel.
Thanks to initiatives supported by Bristol City Council, walking and cycling are already on the rise with bike shops booming, but it is clear we need to encourage new ways to travel alongside this if we are to meet these ambitious targets.
E-scooters could be one of these new ways – providing convenient, environmentally friendly, transport for thousands of people in the city – and we are encouraged that the Council has shown interest in authorising a trial for public use.
E-scooters offer a cleaner, low carbon alternative to cars, and in cities like Paris, they are already a normal part of everyday life.
Lime operates e-scooter rental services in more than 125 cities around the world, and a popular shared e-bike service in the UK, so we know the positive impact this can have on a city.
We are ready to use what we’ve learnt from these experiences to provide a high-quality e-scooter service for the people of Bristol.
Instead of worrying about how to make that short 25-minute journey on the bus, or walking for over an hour, or spending huge amounts of money on repayments for a new car so they can get to work, erhaps, in future, people in Bristol might be able to simply hop onto an e-scooter instead.
A journey of approximately a mile and a half would take a rider around 10 minutes and cost around £3 – cheaper than paying for parking, a taxi, or petrol for the journey. What’s more, it produces zero carbon emissions.
This would be an improvement for people who need to travel, great news for the environment, and good for Bristol.
We cannot afford for the future of travel in the city to be traffic jam after traffic jam. We need all environmentally friendly travel options to flourish.
As our lives begin to recover, we must grasp this opportunity to make improvements to the way we travel and how we live in cities like Bristol.
The prize is a healthier, cleaner and happier Bristol with its sights set firmly on net-zero emissions.
Alan Clarke is director of UK policy and government affairs at Lime, the world’s largest e-scooter company
Main photo: Lime