It's a rather nice fact that Zedify does battery swaps and service support for Beryl's e-scooter and e-bike share service in Norwich. So, you have a zero-emissions micromobilty fleet, supported by a zero emissions logistics service. We caught up with Phil Ellis, Beryl's CEO, to talk about their origins, how their model works, why the time is ripe for cities to embrace micromobility, and the host of benefits that good schemes bring to bear.
Zedify: Could you tell us a little about Beryl’s background and purpose?
Phil: Beryl is the UK's leading micromobility company, and the only BCorp certified operator. Meaning we place people, social responsibility and environmental sustainability at the same level as financial sustainability.
Founded on safety and sustainability principles, our first product, the Laserlight, was created to tackle city cyclists’ biggest problem: being caught in the blind spot. The core laser technology is integrated into all Beryl schemes: the bikes of London, Montreal, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
We partner with cities to achieve their active and sustainable transport goals through long-term exclusive contracts that enable modal shift away from cars, becoming a city’s integrated micromobility partner.
In partnership with cities, we deliver our micromobility systems in two ways. Firstly we operate our systems, where we own the relationship with the city and the riders. Secondly, we sell our platform to leading transport operators and cities.
In September 2020, we became the world’s first provider of a city-wide multimodal smart fleet including pedal bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters serving various journey types and needs.
Zedify: Micromobility seems to be really taking off in UK cities, although we’re perhaps still quite a way behind some of those in Europe, what is driving this uptick and why is it a good thing?
Phil: I think the global pandemic reminded people of the joy that can be had when walking, cycling or scooting - whether for fun or for utility. As we collectively reduced our reliance on public transport, many people realised that their journeys by train, bus or tube can easily be taken by bike or e-scooter. It's been fantastic to see this surge in micromobility usage as people tend to then question their transport habits as a whole. Do I need to take my car to nip down to the shops? Can I ride my bike to the station rather than driving there? This can then lead to some really key conversations about active travel measures in our cities, which ultimately make cycling and e-scootering safer and more enjoyable for the wider public.
Zedify: In many areas pre-pandemic trends have accelerated during the past 12 months; what’s been the impact for Beryl? Could you share some of the key challenges and opportunities that have come to play?
Phil: We are part of the really exciting Department for Transport e-scooter trial which hopes to support Britain's green restart of local travel. We are currently operating in Norwich, Bournemouth and Poole as well as the Isle of Wight. In addition to being extremely popular, these pilots have already shown that e-scooters are a powerful tool in influencing mode change, with some of our own data showing that 10% of our riders who took a journey by e-scooter would've otherwise gone by car. Another fantastic opportunity is the surge in female riders as well as more racially diverse riders - a survey across our bikeshare schemes in the UK showed 50% female ridership and 13% black, mixed or asian ridership. Europe's head start on micromobility shows that when women begin to use a mode it becomes mainstream very quickly.
Zedify: What sorts of changes do you think cities should be making to encourage more active, clean transport and to help more people to make use of micromobility schemes?
Phil: Since the pandemic started, London has added almost two hundred miles of protected bike lanes, and London’s cycling population has grown 200%. So we know that better and safer active transport infrastructure works. We need to continue to do that. Some of the pop-up bike lanes that local councils created last year to support active travel were great, but they were ripped out without being given a fair chance after the vocal minority condemned them, despite research showing that there are 6.5 people in favour of measures to enable cycling and walking for every 1 person against. Current rates of car usage are entirely incompatible with targets on climate change, building safe and continuous infrastructure that enables people to cycle, walk or scoot is absolutely vital if we want to be serious about the environmental challenges we face.
Zedify: Shared ownership and rental models are on the rise- whether that’s tool libraries, clothing hire or electric scooters. Why do you think it’s important that rental schemes exist for bikes and scooters?
Phil: Well firstly, right now bikes are extremely hard to get a hold of. If you're lucky enough to have bought one, you're probably waiting a few months till you can actually get your hands on it. Moreover, just as our cities have been shaped for cars, urban living areas aren't suitably built or equipped to have bikes or e-scooters in many apartments or houses. Shared bike and e-scooter schemes give people an affordable and convenient option to take sustainable journeys without the hassles of ownership. Rental schemes for bikes and e-scooters can also be instrumental in making our towns and cities better places to live. In Beryl's case we work collaboratively with local councils and other stakeholders to share insights and data from our schemes so that they can make better informed transport decisions.
Zedify: Was it important for Beryl to seek out a zero emissions logistics support service for your battery swaps in Norwich?
Phil: It was so important to us. We are a BCorp certified organisation. The certification is part of an ongoing commitment to become a more purposeful business across all our operations.