Jo Bullock, executive head of awareness and education at RoSPA, says safety measures and rider education are key to the roll-out of e-scooters.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a number of significant behaviour changes in the UK. As well as the obvious ones – like more home working and less physical contact – there have been other important but less discussed changes, such as a shift in people’s transport preferences.
With concerns regarding the potential spread of COVID on public transport, many people have rightly sought more socially distanced ways to get around.
Enter the e-scooter. Across Europe and in many nations around the world, the use of e-scooters has been commonplace for some time. Not until last year, when the Government legalised trials for interested councils, did the UK join the trend.
Shared rental e-scooters are now on the streets of many major towns and cities in the UK, with London set to join in the spring.
As the UK’s leading accident prevention charity, we were pleased to see the trials launch, believing that micromobility options like e-scooters will be an important part of the transport mix going forward. However, as with any new transport mode, good safety procedures and strong user education are crucial to prevent misuse or dangerous riding.
We have taken a keen interest in the roll-out of e-scooters for this reason, sharing our views and seeking to become involved where possible in order to help shape how the use of e-scooters can develop safely in the UK.
For this reason, we have established an official education partnership with Neuron Mobility, Australia’s leading e-scooter company, which has recently launched in Slough – the closest town to London to run a shared e-scooter trial.
Our project has seen us work jointly with Neuron to launch an interactive short course educating riders on how to ride and the risks to be aware of, and we’re so pleased that it’s being rolled out across Slough and will also be an important part of Neuron’s approach to safety in other areas where it operates a trial.
Helmets were among the elements of Neuron’s approach to safety that gave us the confidence to partner with them. We believe helmets are a must-have for any e-scooter rider, and although not mandatory we want every rider in the UK to have the option to wear one. Every one of Neuron’s e-scooters has a helmet securely locked to them.
The helmet can only be released through the Neuron app, ensuring that it stays attached and prevents them being discarded or littered. The e-scooters also have a wide footboard and 11-inch silicone wheels promoting stability, and an emergency button, enabling riders to call 999 with one click if they are hurt.
As well as measures to protect riders, we believe that measures should be taken to ensure the safety of pedestrians in all trials. We see geofencing (putting a virtual perimeter around a real-world location which is combined with GPS in the e-scooter) as absolutely critical, to ensure that e-scooters are used and parked in a safe and responsible way.
Trial operators should work closely with councils, empowering them to ensure that accurate plans and routes are created and implemented consistently for e-scooters, paying particular attention to low-speed zones and exclusion areas.
In Slough, we’re pleased that Neuron has worked with the council to implement ‘slow zones’, ‘no go zones’ and ‘no parking zones’. These are enforced automatically – as soon as a rider crosses the threshold into a slow zone, for instance, the maximum speed of the e-scooter is reduced.
Complementing all of these safety measures must be a good education, which is where our joint course comes in.
With London due to embrace the UK’s changing transport trends, the city should look forward to e-scooters arriving on its streets. But it is essential to approach this change seriously, and look at best practice for how to ensure a smooth and safe introduction.