E-scooter trial expanded despite calls for it to be scrapped; ITV News Meridian Leave a comment

Watch: full report on the latest stage of the scooter scheme that’s dividing opinion

A major government-backed trial of electric scooters in Canterbury has been vastly expanded to cover the majority of the city centre and some surrounding residents areas.

It’s the latest stage of a 12-month pilot scheme allowing their limited legal use on certain roads and cycle paths in a bid to cut emissions and traffic.

Only those hired through private company Bird can be used. It remains illegal to ride privately-owned E-scooters in public.

Location technology is used to limit where the scooters can go, and the speed at which they can travel.

But the trial is controversial, with Kent Police & Crime Commissioner calling for it – and similar ones elsewhere in England – to be halted.

Matthew Scott told ITV News Meridian that allowing the rental vehicles sends “mixed messages” at a time when private ones remain banned and is placing an “extra burden” on officers to enforce the rules.

Kent Police figures show that since the test scheme started in November 2020, they’ve had 22 reports from the public in Canterbury, mainly related to nuisance vehicles. Officers recently stopped 53 riders of both private and rental scooters in the city to remind them of the rules.

Inspector Guy Thompson said: “Outside of these trial locations, e-scooters are only legal on private land and anyone found repeatedly using an e-scooter illegally or in a way that causes a nuisance to others faces the prospect of a fine and the scooter being seized.”

Riders of the hire scooters must have at least a provisional driving licence and be older than 18. The vehicles are limited to 15mph, with GPS technology made to slow them yet further in some designated areas.

The scheme is run in association with Kent County Council and started in November, but was last week expanded to cover a much larger area.

The initial area linked university campuses and has been welcomed by those students still needing to travel in for face-to-face teaching.

Canterbury Christ Church SU says the scooters are proving popular with students.

Becky Thomson, Students’ Union President at Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “The students that have been here throughout the pandemic have used them extensively… for shopping, for various different things. It’s been really useful and a really good initiative to trial here.”

But Steve Mitchell, who’s severely sight impaired, sees the parked vehicles as an additional piece of pavement clutter. He told ITV News Meridian: “A few weeks ago I nearly walked into them with my cane, and nearly came to grief but luckily I didn’t, my cane found them.”

Mr Mitchell, who is visually impaired, recently almost collided with a row of parked E-scooters.

Kent County Council told us that parking locations are chosen with the safety of all highway users in mind.

“Each parking location is risk assessed and approved by the KCC Highways Team prior to implementation”, a spokesperson added.

The trail area was expanded in early June to cover most of the urban area and some surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

Similar trials started in some parts of London earlier this week. A public consultation on the Canterbury scheme closes at the end of August.

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