Micro-mobility operator Voi has redesigned its e-scooter parking racks in collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in a bid to reduce street clutter and improve riders’ parking habits.
Voi has trials running in 18 towns and cities, including Cambridge, Birmingham and Liverpool. The company says Voi users have taken over 2 million rides to date in the UK.
The trials have revealed the main challenges to greater micro-mobility adoption are infrastructure and parking, as improperly parked e-scooters can be hazardous to pedestrians and other road users.
The new parking racks feature extended and raised side panels to enclose the whole length of the e-scooter. Voi has also increased the colour contrast on all sides to make the racks more visually distinctive and help cane users to locate and avoid the scooter rack more easily.
The rack forms a part of Voi’s collaboration with RNIB to understand the needs of blind and partially sighted pedestrians.
Jack Samler, general manager at Voi UK and Ireland, said: “We’ve been working closely with RNIB for several months to redesign our e-scooter racks to improve the visibility and address mobility issues faced by blind and partially sighted people. We will be installing these parking racks in cities where we have trials and evaluating the impact that the collaborative design has during the trials.”
Voi is also implementing key recommendations from the RNIB on rider education, training, e-scooter sound alerts and now redesigning parking racks.
John Worsfold, strategic innovation implementation manager at RNIB, said: “The Voi team has worked enthusiastically to better understand the concerns and needs of blind and partially sighted people and we look forward to testing the resulting redesign of their e-scooter racks. We also look forward to learning about the deployment and impact this redesign has for blind and partially sighted people when they are trialled in our towns and cities.”
Each rack can hold up to 10 e-scooters. The first RNIB redesigned racks will be installed in Birmingham and then rolled out in areas where Voi is trailing its e-scooters.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The e-scooter trial in the West Midlands is all about learning from people’s experiences to develop a scheme which works for riders and the wider-travelling public. The RNIB raised legitimate concerns regarding the scheme, and it is to Voi’s credit that they have worked in partnership with them to design these new racks being installed in Birmingham. If we want e-scooters to become part of the UK’s transport system we have to use trials like ours to make sure they work for everybody.”
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “It’s hugely important that as our sustainable transport network takes shape, we consider the impact that new modes may have on disabled and visually-impaired people. Voi have been quick to respond to concerns, and I’m delighted that these co-designed racks will be coming to Birmingham.”
Voi has been focussing on user education and innovative features that encourage good parking behaviour. In the UK, the company recently rolled out an ‘end of ride photo’ feature in the Voi app. This requires riders to take and submit a photo of their parked scooter after each ride, which Voi’s support team will review. Riders who leave e-scooters lying down or obstructing the pavement will receive a warning for their first infraction and a fine of £25 for any further incidents. So far, Voi has seen a 70% improvement in good parking behaviour with the introduction of this feature.
According to a study from the Norwegian Institute for Transport Economics, dedicated parking spots for shared e-scooters can help solve pavement clutter. When testing Voi parking racks in Oslo, as well as unbranded parking spaces painted on the pavements, the company found that more than half of e-scooter riders ended their trips in a designated area.
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