Choose Your Way UoB: Voi E-scooters

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Voi e-scooters are being trialled in Birmingham and across the West Midlands.

We catch up with Tim Owen who works in accommodation services. Over the past few months he has been using the public-hire Voi e-scooters to commute to campus. The scooters are an exciting addition to public transport in our city, more flexible than buses and less polluting then private cars. Parenting and other care commitments block many of our aspirations to travel more sustainability, but Tim explains how the scooters might help his family drop from two cars to one by ticking the boxes of reduced cost and greater convenience.

Recently you have been using the Voi e-scooters to commute. How have you found it so far?

It has been good fun.  I am lucky in that I live and work in the ‘Voi’ zone, so I can pick up a scooter anywhere close to home or campus.  They are surprisingly quick and once you take out traffic and time to park, it is at least as quick as driving.  At rush hour it is far quicker. The one drawback is when it rains it is not so good, and you get drenched very quickly, but if you plan ahead it is fine.  My kids also find it very embarrassing to see me on one, which is a huge added benefit.  I also work across a number of sites around campus and occasionally need to go into Birmingham – Voi is ideal for that.

What made you want to start?

With my wife and I working in separate locations and at different hours of the day, and two kids to get to two different schools each morning and then home again in the evening, previously we needed two cars to make it all work.  During lockdowns we didn’t with schools closed and some working from home, so it made me consider dropping one car for lots of reasons – but primarily cost.  Using Voi could easily save me a lot of money each month.  In the future, hybrid working will mean we can easily live without a second car.  I would like to say that sustainability reasons were a key decision factor, but I am not that virtuous and in reality cost and convenience are what drives these decisions and so the flexibility of the scooters and the additional safety such as the new cycle lanes are key.

Will you continue to Voi to work long term?

Yes, I will, but with the occasional Uber when it is raining stair rods or if it is very cold.  It will still be cheaper and better for the environment than owning a car. 

E-scooters are new to the UK, and there have been questions about nuisance parking and safety of riders and members of the public. As a regular user, what has been your experience these two questions?

The app encourages sensible parking and safety measures are always reiterated.  I don’t see voi riders being any more of a nuisance than bad drivers and definitely not cyclists!  As more and more scooters are on the road, you can see people getting more used to being around them and driving accordingly.    

 What advice would you give to a colleague who wants to start riding Voi e-scooters themselves?

Get set up on the app and have a ride around the quieter campus roads to get used to them.  It is a good place to try them out.  They are great fun and good value, and within the voi zone you can just grab a scooter anywhere and end you ride wherever you want.  It pays to plan your routes in advance – using campus and cycle lanes/shared paths are far more attractive than the main roads – and there are more of these being developed all the time.


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