Police have issued guidance on what to do if you see an underage rider on an electric scooter.
Staple Hill councillor Ian Boulton revealed last week that the local beat team had informed him of recent reports of parents hiring Voi scooters for their children, despite riders needing to be at least 18 and have a valid driving licence.
Now Avon and Somerset police have released more information on the issue. They do not have specific dates or locations for incidents of underage riding, but they say there have been anecdotal reports and they are aware of community concerns.
Voi says the “majority of issues” are caused by people illegally riding privately owned scooters, not Voi rental scooters.
A force spokeswoman said: “The law relating to e-scooters is the same as motor vehicles, therefore, underage riding is considered an offence.
“In cases where a driving licence is not held, an underage rider could be reported for driving without a licence, as well as for driving without insurance.
“It is possible for penalty points to be awarded where a licence isn’t held – these then come into effect when a driving licence is later acquired. We are keen for young people to be aware of this, as it can have an impact on obtaining car insurance as a new driver.”
No underage Voi riders have been prosecuted in the West of England yet, say police, but if anyone has concerns an offence is being committed, they can make a report to the force.
“However, we’d encourage anyone with concerns about underage riders to report them to the relevant hire company in the first instance,” the spokeswoman added.
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“Police will look to them to address the issue by revoking the agreement with the registered adult user before taking further enforcement action.
“E-scooter offences are policed as part of regular neighbourhood patrols. A threat, harm and risk analysis will determine the priority all reports are given. Our approach is to engage and explain primarily, but enforcement is an option for repeat or serious offences.
“We’d reiterate that e-scooters can only legally be used where they are hired as part of a government trial scheme. Private e-scooters remain illegal for use except on private land.
“We’re aware that many people are buying them privately and using them without realising this is not currently lawful outside of trial schemes, and it’s against this backdrop that we are engaging with the public about this issue.”
It comes after Mr Boulton reminded people in Staple Hill and Mangotsfield that “anyone found enabling someone to use an e-scooter not in accordance with the law and terms of hire will be liable to a fine”, having been made aware of concerns by the local beat team.
Voi scooters can be rented in Bristol, Bath and South Gloucestershire through the West of England Combined Authority’s trial scheme.
A Voi spokeswoman said: “It’s important to highlight that while private scooters remain illegal, many people of all age groups are riding them on a daily basis.
“In order to ride a Voi rental e-scooter, users need to be 18 years or over and have at least a provisional driving licence and comply with the Road Traffic rules. Riders cannot begin their first ride without first verifying their licence in the app.
“Verification of the driving licence is performed by Onfido, a trusted technology that verifies people’s identities using a photo-based identity document, a selfie and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. If the person riding the e-scooter is not the account holder, they are breaching Voi’s terms and conditions as well as committing an offence.
“Voi works closely with the local police and has ambassadors on the ground to monitor the e-scooter activity. Users who do not comply with the e-scooter usage guidelines will be blocked and won’t be able to use the Voi scooters anymore.
“Voi has a three-strike policy. After three strikes, the user account is blocked and the rider won’t be able to rent a Voi scooter again.”
She added the firm provides “clear information” on its app to ensure customers are aware of the regulations.
Avon and Somerset police tweeted on April 17 that an e-scooter user had been arrested in South Gloucestershire after riding at nearly twice the legal alcohol limit.
“While the electric hire scooters maybe legal to ride, they aren’t if you’re over the drink drive limit,” the force posted.
Pensioners, visually impaired people and parents with buggies have complained the trial is creating problems with how the scooters are left in streets. Voi tells users to leave them in designated “parking zones”, but these are often just wide pavements or bus stops.
There has also been praise for the scheme. Last week, transport chiefs said the trial had “to be seen as a success”, pointing out the region is “rapidly heading towards a million kilometres of scooter ride distance” since launching last October.