E-scooters were crushed along with scrambler bikes this week as Merseyside Police launched the force’s summer crackdown on nuisance and reckless riders.
Operation Brookdale has focused almost entirely on off-road bikes since it was launched in 2012 to target vehicles used by gun thugs, drug dealers and in anti-social behaviour that has caused misery across the region’s estates.
In recent years e-bikes have started to replace scrambler bikes as the getaway vehicle of choice – with the silence of the bikes a bonus characteristic for criminals.
But now e-scooters are also emerging as a growing problem for police.
While use of the devices has not been seen in many high profile crimes, dangerous riding – including those using them under the influence of drink and drugs – is an increasing concern.
Injuries linked to the vehicles are also rising, particularly cases where crashes are leading to e-scooter handlebars causing horrific liver wounds.
The popularity of e-scooters has risen dramatically over lockdown, with Liverpool Council and the city region taking part in a year-long pilot scheme with VOI that has made dozens available for public hire.
The devices travel at a maximum speed of 10mph, with that speed limited in certain parts of the city centre, and can no longer be used after 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Technology also now prevents the e-scooters from being able to access some of the busier city centre streets.
Use of the VOI e-scooters is perfectly legal and those who rent them are covered by insurance as part of their registration process.
But police are keen for greater awareness of the laws around their use, with key rules including that they can only be ridden on roads and that riders need at least a provisional driving licence.
This week, two men were disqualified from driving for 16 months after being seen driving erratically on them along Smithdown Road.
They were stopped by officers after being spotted weaving from side-to-side, zig zagging across the road and riding on the wrong side of the road. Both were under the influence of alcohol.
Following the case, Roads Policing Sergeant Tim Pottle said: “The VOI electric scooters, which are currently being trialled in the Liverpool region, although legal to ride on roads, are still subject to the laws regarding motor vehicles and require a driving licence.
“Where officers believe an offence has been committed or the standard of driving or riding is of danger to road users then action will be taken.”
Other models of e-scooter are also causing concern for police.
Riders must be insured to use them on the city’s roads, however, Merseyside Police said it was not aware of any insurance provider in the UK for privately-owned e-scooters.
This means the only place they can be used legally is on private land where the rider has the landowner’s permission.
Therefore, the only time you can ride an e-scooter legally in public in the city is if it is a VOI scooter, for which insurance is offered at point of hire, and you are using it on the road.
Speaking to the ECHO, Inspector Carl McNulty said: “We are seeing an increase in e-scooters being ridden illegally across Merseyside.
It is against the law to ride an e-scooter anywhere other than on private land and only then, with the express permission of the landowner.
“If you are found to be riding one in public, you could face having your scooter seized, a fine, or even points on your driving licence. These scooters have the potential to cause serious injury or worse to the rider or other members of the public. We are seeing injuries ranging from broken bones to internal organ damage.
“The only time you can ride an e-scooter legally in a public area in the city is if it is a VOI scooter, for which insurance is offered at point of hire, and you are using it on the road in the trial area.
“The VOI electric scooters are still subject to the laws regarding motor vehicles and require a driving licence. However, despite them being legal, if officers believe an offence has been committed or the standard of driving or riding is of danger to road users then action will be taken.”
He added: “We understand e-scooters may appeal to many people for various reasons, whether it’s to travel to work, to purchase as a gift for someone or to enjoy as a fun activity, but we must stress the fact that to use them in public is illegal and can present a safety risk to yourself and others, so it’s important to use them safely and legally.”