Impact’s Morenike Tomori interviewed Phillip Ellis, the CEO and co-founder of the micro-mobility company Beryl which operates bike-share, e-scooter and e-bike schemes around the UK.
Morenike: Hi Philip. Thank you for joining us today. So, can you tell us how Beryl was created?
Phillip: Of course. So, the company originally started as a cycling accessories and safety business called Blaze in 2012. Making use of our technology and know-how, we transitioned into a bike-share company in 2018, this is also when we changed our name to Beryl!
The Company name took inspiration from Beryl Burton (an award-winning cyclist in the 60s who set the women’s record for the 12-hour time-trial and exceeded the men’s record for two years).
M: How interesting. Do you hope to offer E-scooter hire within Nottingham in the future?
P: We’re looking to expand our multimodal offering across the country, providing as broad a spectrum of options as possible for sustainable travel – that’s what it’s all about.
If we can help people to make sustainable choices by making the experience safe and enjoyable, then there is no hardship.
We also work really hard with cities to locate as many parking areas as we can, which is a fundamental part of our services. We have designed these systems in all our schemes which is a really important part of making the service convenient for all.
There is a lot of work by us and others in the industry to enhance the safety of E-scooters
M: I have actually downloaded the Beryl app and noticed that it said your daylight schedules (to improve safety) will end in November 2021. Have you thought, therefore, about how you will continue to keep users safe?
P: Yes definitely!
A big thing we have done with scooters is investing in training programs, working with people who are allied with cycling proficiency training and can deliver both bike and scooter safety training in the cities in which we work.
Secondly, on the app, we try to give clear concise information which includes basic reminders such as wear a helmet, never ride with two people on the scooter, and remember to obey the rules of the road.
There is a lot of work by us and others in the industry to enhance the safety of E-scooters. So, as vehicles, they are becoming safer with bigger wheels, better brakes, etc. All of these sorts of things are improving at a rapid pace.
Our scooters also have a lot of sensors, such as GPS and magnetometers, which are connected to the internet and can help build up a full picture of what the vehicle is doing in real-time.
I hope that, in the future, you won’t need a license to ride e-scooters
M: Would you advise against two people on a scooter?
P: It definitely shouldn’t happen. The rules by which E-scooters have been made legal are quite limited, however, they essentially say that one shouldn’t ride in tandem (with more than one rider) or with a trailer, etc.
The long-term position that English law will take on scooters isn’t yet known, with the current measures only temporary. There will probably be a change in law next year, which will allow for all forms of electric vehicles and be more prescriptive about how scooters should be used.
Once these rules are put in place, it will be easier for councils to work with operators and manufacturers to form long-term partnerships and plan how scooters should be deployed within their constituencies.
M: Will we need a ‘scooter driving license’ in the future since currently for scooters, we use provisional driving licenses (E-bikes do not require any license)?
P: One of the main important things about our schemes is that they are accessible to everyone with the app.
I hope that, in the future, you won’t need a license to ride e-scooters; however, this is a good example of a law that is not clear. The Department for Transport and ministers will have to decide these rules over the following years.
Requiring a driving license can be looked at positively, as those riding bikes are of the age where they should be aware of how to be responsible. However, this rule is a barrier for certain people. As I said before, we should focus on being proactive in training people how to ride scooters.
We recently introduced a feature that allows people to pause their ride for up to 15 minutes
M: On your website, it states, ‘Our community contributes ideas and insights so we can build solutions to real problems, routed in design and technology, I was just wondering whether you had any examples?
P: We recently introduced a feature that allows people to pause their ride for up to 15 minutes. This is so that users can quickly go to the shops, or do something else, without having to end the ride and without someone else being able to unlock it.
This was something which customers kept telling us they wanted and hopefully, it has improved services.
Beryl is a certified b-corp company, which means we meet the highest standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Everything we do is about making the world a better place through smart, accessible and sustainable travel.
M: What do you hope the future of E-travel looks like?
P: Lot’s more cycling!
What cities need to do is encourage people to cycle and move as much as possible.
Just under 2% of all journeys are made by bike and everyone wants to get that number up. Places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam have up to 50% of journeys being made by bike and there is no reason why we can’t do the same!
Roads like Maid Marian Way (Nottingham, from Ocean to the castle), are surrounded by the city centre, beautiful grounds and leisure areas. It would be quite nice to be able to walk/ cycle between all these places, but it’s hard to as there are four lanes of traffic which ‘slice’ up the city and doesn’t make it a nice place to be.
The benefits of cycling to the person and to the environment are very clear, but there is this extra element of cities being more pleasant places to be without these big roads. That is the long-term vision and the reason why we should all be encouraging cycling!
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