More restrictions have been put on Newcastle’s e-scooters to stop them being ridden dangerously by “overly-exuberant revellers” now that pubs can open again.
Lockdown measures eased in England on Monday to allow hospitality venues to resume service outdoors for the first time in months, with non-essential shops and hairdressers also allowed to reopen.
And to try and stop anyone from hopping on an e-scooter after their first few pints back at the pub, an offence which could see people banned from the roads, operator Neuron has imposed temporary limits on their use in the city centre which will be in force until April 18.
Riders will be prevented from parking the electric vehicles in large parts of the city centre between 6pm and 11pm, including around Central Station, Monument, Haymarket, Cathedral Square, Dean Street, and up to St James’ Boulevard.
The orange scooters will be limited to a top speed of 9mph in that zone, rather than their usual 15mph.
Neuron also announced that it will be deploying a greater number of its safety ambassadors in the city centre and Jesmond and that a reaction test in its app, which “promotes self-reflection and helps riders assess whether they should be riding an e-scooter”, will automatically appear whenever anyone tries to hire a scooter after 6pm.
Complaints about the scooters being misused has already prompted the imposition of an overnight curfew, meaning they cannot be hired between 11pm and 5am.
Neuron said: “With Monday seeing the much awaited return of pubs and other entertainment venues in the city centre, Neuron and Newcastle City Council are keen to ensure that the e-scooters aren’t seen as an option for overly-exuberant revellers.”
Chris Miles, Neuron’s city manager, added: “Like everyone we’re excited for the lockdown to end and can’t wait for more people to have the opportunity to use our e-scooters.
“We look forward to helping people reconnect with their friends and families but it’s important that we all do everything we can to make sure that e-scooters continue to be used safely.
“We advise all new and existing riders to follow the rules and to ride responsibly, now is the time to be enjoying new-found freedom rather than risking points on your licence or spending time in A&E.”
The e-scooters have proved a controversial addition to Newcastle since arriving in February, with complaints from some locals and councillors that they have been regularly misused – with people spotted riding them on pavements, ‘zig-zagging’ across roads, and riding two people to a scooter.
Six people were banned from the roads last month after being caught riding the e-scooters in Jesmond – five who were found to be over the legal alcohol limit and another who refused to provide a breath specimen.
The scooters can only be used by people aged 18 and above who hold a full or provisional driving licence and they can only be ridden on roads, bus lanes, cycle lanes where the speed limit is 30mph or less, plus pavements that are designated cycleways.
Neuron’s current ride zone allows them to be hired in parts of the city centre, Sandyford, Shieldfield, Jesmond, and Gosforth.
Riders can get 30p discounts on their journey if they park at a designated area, rather than leaving the scooters strewn around the city, and if they take a selfie showing themselves wearing a helmet before the trip.
Nathan Davies, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “As the lockdown ends more and more people will likely be turning to e-scooters as a safe and socially distanced way to travel. That’s why it’s more important than ever to promote safety and do everything we can to educate people on how to use the e-scooters in a way that benefits everyone.”
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “With the easing of restrictions, we have worked closely with Neuron to ensure the continued safe use of e-scooters in the city.
“People using e-scooters must remember that, like all road users, they are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others and we would remind people of the rules they agree to when they sign up to use the service.”