The controversial roll-out of e-scooters on England’s roads has brought hundreds of injuries and more than 1,000 complaints, according to new figures from local councils.The scale of problems with rental scooters is revealed in an edition of ITV’s Tonight programme, ‘E-scooters: Britain’s New Road Rage?’, broadcast on Thursday.The investigation, which has evidence of dangerous driving, anti-social behaviour and drunk riding, includes calls for urgent regulation of the vehicles.Put simply, we’ve got to make our minds up about e-scooters.
The argument is raging, with some believing they are a public asset – others that they are a public danger.Meanwhile, thousands of e-scooters are already on our roads, many of them illegally.Opinions are becoming sharply divided, yet the official verdict from government has been delayed until next year.The new information and data we have assembled should help focus this crucial debate.Government-backed trials of rental e-scooters are now operating in more than 50 towns and cities, but Freedom of Information findings for the Tonight programme highlight more than 210 injuries and 1,100 complaints.
In new submissions, councils say there are more than 7,608 rental e-scooters currently in use – with permission granted for at least 34,425.Local authorities, who are running the e-scooter schemes in conjunction with 11 private companies, have reported more than 800 incidents including 25 collisions.And 122 users have been banned from using the rental scooters since safety trials began last summer.
E-scooter trials: How they work
There are e-scooter rental trials taking place in more than 50 towns and cities in England, run by 11 private companies.
In most schemes, e-scooters are dotted around the city that you can pick up and rent using a mobile phone app. Others allow monthly rentals where you keep the e-scooter at home.
You must have a provisional or full driving licence to rent an e-scooter and you can face the same penalties for dangerous or drink driving as you would in a car.
In the rental trials, you are advised – but don’t have to – wear a helmet and the e-scooters are limited to 15.5mph.
Geofencing technology will often stop you from riding in prohibited areas or slow the speed of the e-scooter.
Only e-scooters in the rental trials are legal on UK roads. Riding a privately-owned e-scooter has always been and remains illegal. If stopped, you could have your e-scooter seized by the police, receive a £300 fine and face six points on your driving licence.
One of the most common complaints we encountered wasn’t to do with the e-scooters being ridden – it was about where they are parked.Many of the rental schemes do not require any docking of the vehicles, they can be left on pavements.The rental firms do give information and guidance on where e-scooters can safely be left.Yet there is plenty of evidence that users are not always following that advice – sometimes with tragic consequences.Phil Jones from Northampton died after trying to move a rental e-scooter that was blocking the pavement.His brother, Dennis Jones, told the Tonight programme: “I just find it amazing that you can hire something and just go and leave it anywhere … it hasn’t been looked at correctly and it needs some form of regulation.”
Phil Jones died after trying to move a rental e-scooter that was blocking the pavement
Tonight discovered 1.8 million journeys have been made so far as part of the rental e-scooter trials authorised by the Department for Transport.The programme contains video evidence of riders behaving badly, including two people on the same vehicle and dangerous driving on pavements.Although speeds are limited to a maximum of 15.5mph, there is no compulsory training before somebody hires and no requirement to wear a helmet.
Sam Pooke of e-scooter hire firm Voi tells Tonight: “Of course with any new mode of transport you will always get some people who unfortunately don’t use it the way it is supposed to.”Like many in this emerging sector he points to the potential environmental advantages: “They’re green, they’re flexible and they’re affordable… our latest data has shown that 20% of riders are using a Voi scooter instead of a car.”Many believe that e-scooters can contribute to a green solution to urban congestion and pollution. It is also argued that they have helped thousands of people avoid public transport during the pandemic.Leading executives in the sector say it is time the vehicles were legalised and regulated, as has already happened in many other countries.While rental e-scooters in the trial schemes are on the road legally, there are also thousands of privately owned ones unlawfully on our roads across the country.
The law is clear that they are not allowed, with penalties for riders of a £300 fine and six points on your driving licence.Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens of London’s Metropolitan Police says: “They’re dangerous, they’re illegal… retailers are not stepping up to the mark at that moment to make that absolutely clear.”Forces across the country are seeing huge rises in police incidents relating to e-scooters.
The Tonight programme has found that in 2019 there were more than 1,055 – in 2020 it was nearly five times that number, at 5,011.It’s rare for any society to have to make up its mind about a new mode of transport – but that’s what’s happening now. Yet even before a long-term decision has been made, thousands are already on our roads.It is surely now time for policy and regulation to catch up with these little vehicles that are causing such big divisions of opinion.
E-scooters: Britain’s New Road Rage? – Tonight will be broadcast on Thursday, May 20 at 7.30pm on ITV and is available after broadcast on the ITV Hub.
Source for data: Tonight sent Freedom of Information requests to local authorities in England running trials. 26 councils responded in full, accounting for more than three-quarters of trial areas. Tonight also sent Freedom of Information requests to police forces about e-scooter incidents – 30 responded.