CONCERNS have been raised about irresponsible e-scooter riding just a week after a pilot scheme was launched in the North-East.
A fleet of 250 orange electric scooters has been opened up to the public in Newcastle upon Tyne, with almost 8,000 journeys taking place in the first seven days.
But the way some people ride the 15mph machines has caused locals to call for an early end to the scheme.
The pilot, due to run for a year, has faced criticisms including a lack of social distancing when scooters are shared, people riding without helmets, near-misses with pedestrians, and someone almost being hit by a bus.
Avril Deane, a retired newspaper columnist who lives in the Jesmond area of the city, told the PA news agency: “It’s a free-for-all at the moment.
“They are riding on the pavements, none of them are wearing helmets, we are all supposed to be socially-distancing but you see two people on a scooter.”
She also heard that a bus driver had to swerve to avoid a collision with one rider.
Ms Deane said she feels trialling an e-scooter scheme during lockdown is a bad idea, particularly as they are not washed between uses.
She said: “People are just having fun, I accept, but it’s not the right time, it’s putting everyone at risk.
“I think it’s a crazy scheme to have launched at a time of pandemic.”
Her views were shared with people in her local residents’ association, she said.
Greg Stone, a Liberal Democrat on Newcastle City Council, said it is a good idea in principle but fears it might end like an ill-fated bike hire scheme which ended with many of the cycles being dumped in the River Tyne by vandals.
He said he supports schemes aimed at reducing traffic emissions, but wants reassurances that e-scooter use will be properly monitored and policed.
“I can see it’s a fun novelty for people to try, but they have to interact with traffic and pedestrians,” he said.
The e-scooters are currently free for NHS staff and use is limited to the city centre, Jesmond and Gosforth.
They are legal on roads, and in bus and cycle lanes, and are available via operator Neuron’s app for over-18s who have a full or provisional driving licence.
Hire costs are £1 to unlock the scooter and 18p a minute after that.
Newcastle City Council said “in the vast majority of cases” people have been sticking to the rules, and the minority who have not have been reminded they could be banned.
Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: “It’s great to see that the majority of people are using the e-scooters in line with the rules that they have agreed to follow and which are there to keep themselves and others safe.
“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.”
A Neuron spokesman said: “So far, the vast majority of Newcastle riders have behaved responsibly and the feedback has been extremely positive.”