A safety campaigner is urging the trial of e-scooters in Birmingham city centre to be halted after taking pictures and video of potentially dangerous scenes.
Sarah Gayton, a shared-spaces co-ordinator for the National Federation of the Blind of the UK, argues that leaving scooters on pavements and riding them in an incorrect manner is dangerous for the public.
After sending her evidence to BirminghamLive, Ms Gayton has written to Birmingham City Council leader Cllr Ian Ward and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street asking them to suspend the trial.
“We need action now, before anyone is hurt or injured,” she told BirminghamLive. “The trial is just not safe.”
One scene filmed for her Twitter feed @seaofchangefilm includes a man pulling a wheelie on a pavement close to the entrance to Grand Central and New Street Station.
The scene came just a day after our report called Dumped Voi e-scooters ‘littering the city’s streets.
Heading towards the curb on Hill Street, the man jumped off his scooter just as cars were coming down the hill alongside at 9.52pm on Saturday, May 1.
The scooters are so heavy most people cannot lift the front wheel more than an inch off the ground when stationary – as we discovered when we tested the Voi shortly after launch in September
In another clip, which you can also see in our compilation video above, Ms Gayton filmed two men on one Voi e-scooter riding around a sharp corner at Moor Street Railway Station, unable to see there was a group of women on the pavement.
They were quickly followed by a second scooter, this time being ridden on the pavement by one person.
Voi e-scooters require a provisional licence and their usage is subject to the same rules and regulations that motorists face in their cars – hence they are not meant to be ridden on pavements.
Three of the key rules
- 1. Do not ride on pavements.
- 2. Only one person (the hirer) is permitted to ride a Voi scooter at once.
- 3. Do not ride when you’ve been drinking.
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The year-long Voi trial began in September 2020 with backing from leading figures including Mr Street and the council’s cabinet member for transport and the environment, Cllr Waseem Zaffar.
The scheme has government approval with partners including Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and Birmingham City Council (BCC).
You can see more pictures or riders bending the rules in our photo story below and then read comments from West Midlands Police, TfWM and Birmingham City Councll.
BirminghamLive asked West Midlands Police what its policy was towards e-scooters.
We were sent a link to a West Midlands Police page online which offers guidance to the usage of all e-scooters as “a helpful list of everything you need to know in order to combat some of the myths!”
The page adds: “While e-scooters are legally available to purchase, it’s currently against the law to ride a privately owned e-scooter in any public place in the UK. This includes roads, pavements, parks, town centres or canal towpaths.
“The only place a privately owned e-scooter can be used is on private land.
“This is because e-scooters are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs) so they are treated as motor vehicles.
“As such, if they are used on a road, pavement or public place they are subject to the same legal requirements as any motor vehicle.”
A Transport for West Midlands spokesperson said: “As previously stated, TfWM supports the strict enforcement measures introduced by the region’s e-scooter operator Voi to deal with the minority of users who do not comply with the rules for riding and parking.
“With the improving weather and as lockdown eases, we are seeing a significant growth in the popularity and use of the scheme.
“While this inevitably presents some challenges, we are fully confident in the measures that have been taken and that continue to be implemented to ensure its continued safe operation.
“The e-scooter trial is undergoing continual monitoring and evaluation and continues to evolve to deal with issues as they arise.”
Voi declined to comment specifically about any of the above pictures and the ones in our photo story but referred us to previous responses to questions about safety issues.
In our May 1 report about scooters “littering pavements” Voi said pro-active measures to ensure safety included:
- Number plates so that offenders could be identified
- A three-strike policy through which reported incidents of anti-social behaviour and misuse would lead to “warnings, fines and even temporary or permanent bans
A Voi spokesperson added: “We believe it’s important to put things into perspective as the majority of riders park the scooters correctly.
“However, users who let e-scooters lying down on the floor, parked in a way that is obstructing the pavement and causing an obstacle to pedestrians, strollers or wheelchairs, will receive an email containing a warning and an educational message./
“After the first warning, riders who park their vehicles incorrectly will receive a £25 fine.”
Voi’s most recent V4 model now includes indicators to help users to signal where they are going.
If an incident is reported, Voi can use each scooter’s GPS information to determine who was riding a particular scooter, where and when.
What do you think of the e-scooters? Tell us in the comments below