Disability campaigner Lord Holmes discusses the ongoing e-scooter trials and growing concerns over safety and accessibility on our roads.
Last summer (July 2020) the government launched e-scooter trials across the UK. Under current regulations, e-scooters can be legally rented from licensed operators, they are speed limited (15.5mph) and are allowed only on roads or cycle lanes, not pavements.
Private e-scooters are legal to own – and are widely available online or shops – but only for use on private land.
However, anyone who has ventured outside over the past few months will have noticed that despite the regulations there are plenty of private scooters on our roads – and indeed our pavements. There has been a significant rise in both legal and illegal e-scooter use.
The e-scooter hire schemes running in 50 towns and cities across the UK have been extended until the end of March next year and the Metropolitan police are seizing e-scooters that are being ridden unlawfully. They have already seized over 2,000 e-scooters this year.
I have serious concerns over safety. Whilst it is difficult to get accurate figures, a recent ITV programme reported that 210 people have been injured in collisions or other incidents involving e-scooters.
Sarah Gayton at the National Federation of the Blind (NFBUK) attributes nine deaths in the UK since last year, eight riders and one vulnerable pedestrian who tripped over an abandoned e-scooter that was blocking the pavement, broke his hip and died in hospital 12 days later. His brother has written to the Prime Minister asking for an end to e-scooter trials.
Distressingly, just this week a three year old girl was hit by an e-scooter in a London park and has suffered ‘life-changing injuries.’ Local parents have started a petition calling for pavements to be made safe for children. In 2016 e-scooters were banned in two major Chinese cities, Beijing and Shanghai, over safety concerns.
The Department for Transport (DfT) will assess the trials next year before deciding whether to fully legalise all e-scooters or limit them to authorised rental schemes. It is unfortunate though that while we wait we can expect more, chaos, confusion and injury on our roads and pavements.
Ultimately, it is difficult to envisage how e-scooters can form any positive part of any integrated transport strategy, coherent health strategy or anything which looks like inclusion.
This comment first appeared on Lord Holmes' website and is republished here with kind permission.