AFTER stirring much controversy in Slough since the trial began, e-scooter company Neuron have sat down for an exclusive interview with the Observer – and we raised your concerns and questions.
In September 2020, Slough became one of 13 cities and towns in the UK to take part in the e-scooter rental scheme approved by the Department for Transport.
Since the year-long trial began, around 450 bright orange-coloured e-scooters have been seen whizzing around the town and other trial areas.
According to Neuron, riders in Slough have made the equivalent of eight trips around the world just in the town alone since the trial began.
But this has prompted safety fears from residents who have reportedly seen reckless users riding on the pavement or dangerously on the road, as well as people abandoning the e-scooters on pavements or in front of people’s drives.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service had a chat with Neuron’s senior operations manager in Slough, Teddy Howards, about safety concerns as well as the e-scooters’ technology.
But first, a quick reminder of the e-scooter rules:
- Riders must be at least 18 years old and own a valid provisional or full drivers’ license.
- It is illegal to use a privately-owned e-scooter on public roads, pavements, and cycle lanes.
- Rule breakers can be fined £300 by police and six points to their driving license.
What does Neuron do when they see reports of reckless riding and selfish parking?
Teddy: “We have different measures in place, like our geo-fences, for example.
“We have different types of geo-fences such as no parking zones, no riding zones, no speed zones, and we utilise these to significantly reduce bad parking.
“If we have an area outside school, we might have a no-parking are outside there to ensure that people aren’t parking them during drop off or pick up.
“We also react extremely quickly to any requests from members of the public. We have a ground team that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and if we are to receive a request, our driver will go out and move the vehicles.
“We will also communicate with the rider, depending on the severity of it, to prompt them to park more safely.”
He also said a very strong majority of riders have been parking responsibly – with 99.3 per cent of users parking in designated spots, according to Mr Howards.
How many people can the e-scooters carry? Is there a weight limit?
While the e-scooters are only meant to be ridden by one person, residents have reported having seen two or three people riding on the same scooter.
Teddy: “It can happen. When it’s reported to us, we report quickly on that and speaking to the riders directly.”
How many people have been banned from the service and how long?
While we were walking with the e-scooters, Teddy said they had to ban “a few” people from using the service – but couldn’t reveal an exact number.
He irritated a vast majority of riders have been using the e-scooters “sensibly”.
Mr Howards also said the police issue the £300 fines to rule breakers, not Neuron.
There have been concerns raised about blind and deaf people may not be able to hear or see the e-scooters coming down. What is Neuron doing to make sure they are safe as well?
Teddy: “The Neuron scooters are bright orange. It’s a safety colour and it was chosen specifically for that reason.
“In terms of seeing scooters coming, they are quite visually outstanding in their appearance.
“In regard to noise, we look at things like cycles, pushbikes, electric vehicles, and other things that don’t emit a noise. You can actually hear the whirring of an e-scooter when it’s coming past.”
In Newcastle, Neuron decided to implement an 11pm to 5am curfew after safety concerns were raised about night-time riding. Will you consider this for Slough?
Teddy: “We don’t have a curfew in Slough. We have a lot of people who use the scooters throughout nighttime to get to and from work.
“We have an amazing industrial estate in Slough where a lot of night shift teams finish at 3,4, or 5am. We can see throughout the trial period since September that they have been regular users to use them in the morning from these work locations back to either a transport hub or to their house.
“I think it’s something that’s really good we’re able to run the 24-hour service here and it enables people to use these scooters to and from work 24 hours a day.”
Residents have raised concern that the e-scooters block their path on the pavement and have called for on-street parking. Will you consider this?
Teddy: We work really closely with the council on lots of different new initiatives and ways to improve the service for residents and for us as well because we want to have the best service and integrate it with the community to make it the best possible commuter tool within out scooters.
“We do have a 24-hour team who go around collecting the scooters that have been parked in different areas.
“We can see in our operator app where all the scooters are, and we will look for the scooters outside of stations or potentially could cause an issue.”
Are they insured vehicles?
Teddy: “Our insurance details are in the FAQs within the app and you can see all the information in there.
“They are insured vehicles to be on the road.”
Why isn’t mandatory for riders to wear a helmet?
Teddy: “They don’t legally have to wear helmets but we encourage it so much.
“We want everybody to wear our helmets. They are sanitised every time our scooters are touched by a driver or patroller who rearranges the e-scooters and makes sure they are roadworthy.”
What will Neuron do after the trial period ends this September?
Teddy: “We don’t fully know – but we haven’t come to Slough to just do a year-long trial and then disappear, we want to have a really big impact on this impact and enable our riders to get to and from work.
“Around 50 per cent of the trips are commuters going to and from work – which is really excited to see.
“This isn’t a short-term thing, this a long-term thing for us and we want to be in Slough for as long as we possibly can and make the biggest impact we can on the environment and the community.”