Major safety concerns have been raised over reckless riders misusing Newcastle’s new e-scooters.
The first 250 of the orange Neuron scooters, which can travel up to 15mph, arrived in the city a week ago as part of a 12-month trial scheme in which they are available to hire.
But fears have quickly emerged over the electric vehicles being misused – with complaints of them “zig-zagging” down roads, people riding two to a scooter or on pavements, and under-age youngsters being spotted on them.
One city councillor says he has “serious misgivings about the risk of an e-scooter colliding with an elderly pedestrian or going under a bus”.
Newcastle City Council and Neuron confirmed that at least one irresponsible person has already been banned from using the e-scooters – and warned that rule-breakers could also face police prosecution and penalty points on their driving licence.
Neil Wilson, from Sandyford, has made multiple complaints about the e-scooters already.
The 76-year-old spotted a group “racing” up and down Sandyford Road at 4am on Tuesday morning, says they have been left obstructing footpaths, and was also concerned to see a man riding one with a small child stood onboard with him.
Mr Wilson added: “So far in Sandyford I have seen scooters being ridden zig-zag down the road, two on a scooter, scooter being ridden with the rider not wearing a helmet, all things that should not happen and this is only the first week.”
Another complainant, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed to have seen a group of “very young lads” who looked to be under 18 hurtling down the Quayside on Saturday and almost crashing into a motorcyclist.
You must be 18 and hold at least a provisional driving licence to use the scooters and only one person is allowed on at a time.
They are legal on any road, cycle lane or bus lane with a speed limit up to 30mph within the current Neuron ride zone – which covers parts of the city centre, Jesmond, Shieldfield, Sandyford, and Gosforth.
However they are also allowed on pavements that are designated cycleways, including the main path across the Town Moor.
Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone said that he hopes the year-long experiment is a success but that “much more needs to be done to give the public confidence that their use is safe, well-managed, and is reducing traffic levels”.
The Manor Park councillor added: “The e-scooters are clearly novel and fun and I get why young people are flocking to them. But I’m dubious they are being used as responsibly as the operator’s PR assured us they would, and it’s unclear that they are displacing car journeys.
“After the first few days, there are numerous reports of riding on pavements and on the wrong side of the road, and of groups of riders racing round streets and parks in packs.
“Helmets are rarely used, and more than one rider on board is not uncommon. In addition to risking injury if they encounter one of the many potholes on the city’ s roads, I have serious misgivings about the risk of an e-scooter colliding with an elderly pedestrian or going under a bus.”
Just under 8,000 journeys have been made on the e-scooters in their first week, averaging slightly more than 1,000 per day.
The city council and Neuron said that the “vast majority” of riders are complying with the rules and warned of the severe consequences for those who don’t.
Coun Arlene Ainsley, the council’s cabinet member for transport and air quality, said: “There have been a small number of incidents where people haven’t followed the rules, and Neuron have taken swift action by suspending at least one irresponsible rider from the service.
“Everyone who signs up on the Neuron app is made aware of, and agrees to adhere to, the riding rules. Failure to stick to these rules could result in being banned from future use of e-scooters or, in the case of serious breaches, could result in further action being taken.
“We would very much prefer not to take enforcement action and certainly would not wish to see anyone picking up points on their driving licence.
“Therefore we are urging everyone to behave in a sensible and responsible manner when using the e-scooters.”
A spokesperson from Neuron added: “So far, the vast majority of Newcastle riders have behaved responsibly and the feedback has been extremely positive. We are pleased that people are choosing e-scooters, however we encourage only those that need to travel to use them.
“All of our riders sign up to a comprehensive list of riding rules before they are allowed to take their first trip. These highlight that the need to be over 18 and that only one person is allowed on an e-scooter at a time and they give guidance on where e-scooters can be ridden and parked.”