Electric scooter trials should be halted before the government “loses control of the issue”, warns Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
The two-wheelers are being trialled in 31 locations, including Canterbury, as part of a Department for Transport project, but PCC Matthew Scott warns inconsiderate riders are becoming a “menace” and that “too many people are using them in places they shouldn’t”.
Mr Scott is calling for the government schemes to be halted and reviewed before they are expanded further.
Figures obtained by Freedom of Information requests suggest there have been more than 200 injuries, and over 1,000 complaints in towns and cities since where pilot schemes are running, since the project began. The figures were revealed in ‘E-scooters: Britain’s New Road Rage?’, broadcast on ITV tonight.
E scooter firm Bird, which is heading up the trial in Canterbury, maintains it has had no serious incidents in the city.
It stresses there are key differences between privately owned scooters – which remain illegal to use in public spaces, and for riders under 18 – and those used in the government trials.
But Mr Scott said: “Inconsiderate riders are becoming a menace on our roads and pavements, ignoring the law and causing dangers for other road users.
PCC Matthew Scott speaks out about e scooters
“We urgently need decisive action now on their future, as we’re in danger of losing control of the issue and placing additional burdens on policing.
“Too many people are using them in places they shouldn’t and we need to stop them being bought for young people.
“There should be no more roll outs until work is done with retailers, manufacturers and the public to make sure they are safe and people understand the law.”
The UK’s 31 trials are being headed up by various e scooter rental firms, with a final trial set to begin in London next month.
In Canterbury, about 150 Bird e scooters have been available for hire across the city centre since March. The final stage of the city’s scheme is set to see the trial zone expanded further to comprise areas including Wincheap, Thanington, Hales Place and the A28 Sturry Road.
Bird UK’s general manager discusses Canterbury’s e scooter trial and responds to safety concerns
Responding to Mr Scott’s concerns, Bird stressed key differences between privately owned e scooters and those used in trials, chiefly that Bird can control where and how fast its scooters go, and uses “state-of-the-art” technology to ensure riders are over 18 and have a drivers license.
A spokesman said: “Electric scooters are having a positive impact on towns and cities across the UK, helping hundreds of thousands of people get where they need to go without causing congestion or air pollution.
“Bird puts the safety of its riders and other road users above all else, and has been operating responsibly in the UK since 2018.
“In Canterbury, Bird uses location technology to limit where the scooters can go, and the speed at which they can travel.
Canterbury residents gave their thoughts as the e scooter trial was expanded to cover the city centre
“Any rider breaching local rules, or riding irresponsibly, will be banned from using our service.”
On Monday, Bird staff held a safety education day in Canterbury, which saw them hand out free helmets and safety advice, and engage with members of the public about the trial.
Charlotte Bailey, general manager of Bird UK, said: “Obviously it is a new transport method. Integrating has been a concern for some residents.
“Bird as an operator takes safety extremely seriously. There’s a number of things we do to ensure the scooters are being used as safely as possible. The first is education.
“The second is prevention, so there’s a lot of technology fitted on the e scooters to help support people riding safely.
“And then the third thing is enforcement and reporting back. So if you do see people riding not safely, please report it to Bird and we take the necessary action with the rider. We’re also working hand-in-hand with the police.”
Bird says there have been no serious incidents involving its escooters since the trial began in Canterbury.
But concerns have been raised regarding the trial’s safety, while incidents have been reported involving privately-owned e scooters.
In November, a mum-of-three from Canterbury suffered two broken limbs when she was knocked down by a privately owned scooter while walking along a pavement.
Pauline Lilford, 58, was left bed-bound following the “shocking” crash, which she said “felt more like [being] hit by a car”.
Responding to Mr Scott’s concerns, a spokesman for the DfT said: “The global pandemic has seen unprecedented changes to how we travel, which is why we are running e scooter trials in over 30 areas in England.
“These trials prioritise public safety while ensuring we get the best evidence of their benefits and impact on public space, and will help us design future regulations.”