e-scooter in front of Petroc sign

An innovative e-scooter trial is being launched in Barnstaple this week. The trial is being run by North Devon Council, working closely with Petroc College and European micromobility company, Voi Technology. 

The long-term rental trial, to be launched on Wednesday 12 May, is being offered to staff and students of Petroc with the aim of improving access to the Sticklepath and Brannams campus to ease congestion during peak times. 

The trial will enable students and staff to move around the Barnstaple sites without having to use a car, with associated benefits to air quality in the town. The council also hopes to extend the trial to tourists on a 'hop-on hop-off' basis later in the holiday season, providing a way for visitors to move around without causing additional traffic, congestion and pollution.

A range of safety measures are in place for the trial. This includes an initial speed limit of 12.5mph, which is below the 15.5mph speed recommended by the Department for Transport (DfT). E-scooters will also be geofenced to a predefined area, decided by the council in close collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police, Petroc and Voi. In addition, no riding and slow riding zones have been implemented; when a scooter enters a slow zone the speed will be reduced to 5mph and if a user enters a no ride zone the e-scooter will slow down until it comes to a halt. 

Riders will be incentivised and rewarded with credits for completing the RidelikeVoila traffic school, and encouraged to participate in free online webinars where they can learn how to ride and park an e-scooter safely. Voi also offers in-app safety guidelines and provides regular safety updates to its users.

Rental e-scooters can ride on the same road spaces as bikes, including cycle lanes. The rental e-scooters being used in the trial include unique identification plates and are equipped with bright lights and reflectors for increased visibility. Voi advises riders to wear a helmet, which is provided to them alongside the long term rental e-scooter. Privately-owned, unregulated e-scooters will not be included in the trial and remain illegal, except on private land.

Chief Executive of North Devon Council, Ken Miles, says: "We are excited to be working with Voi and Petroc on the first phase of the e-scooter trial. We are working in close collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police to help ensure the safety and viability of the trial over the 12-month period. We also look forward to starting a second phase of the trial, which will be a a 'pay-as-you-go' system for tourists, which we hope to have in place for the holiday season."

Vice Principal at Petroc, Bill Blythe, says: “We see this as a great opportunity for our students and staff to take part in an innovative trial of a new mode of transport, reducing our carbon footprint and supporting the Department of Transport in assessing the way that e-scooters can operate safely in the context of a rural college. Being part of a pilot allows us to support our students and staff to learn to ride e-scooters safely with the support of the college, Voi and the council. As a college that is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2035 these sort of initiatives are critical.”

Jack Samler, General Manager at Voi UK and Ireland, says: “We are excited to launch our rental scheme in the beautiful coastal area of North Devon. We believe rural areas can benefit from this new green mode of transport, particularly those with large student or business campuses or with seasonal influxes of population.

"Our long-term rental scheme, now available for Petroc staff and students, helps tackle the transport challenges in the area whilst offering a practical, flexible, cost-effective and carbon-neutral alternative to short car rides. Moving forward we will continue to work closely with the North Devon Council to launch the short term rental trial in the region on time for the summer season.”

In the UK, Voi offers e-scoters and e-bikes and currently has trials in 18 cities, including  Northampton, Birmingham, Liverpool, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Portsmouth and Southampton. So far, over 2 million rides have been taken, and over 4.8 million kilometres have been travelled in the UK since the micromobility operator launched its first trial in September 2020. With headquarters in Stockholm, Voi operates in more than 50 cities across 11 countries, has over six million users, and has served over 30 million rides.

Information on how to sign up to the e-scooter trial is available on Voi's website. Further information on the trial - including frequently asked questions - will be available on North Devon Council's website when the trial goes live on 12 May at www.northdevon.gov.uk/e-scooter-trial.