E-scooter update: local trials to begin

Post date: 
Thursday, 2 July 2020
Category: 
Campaigning
Inclusive journeys
A stationary e-scooter and rider viewed at ground level.

Trials of rental e-scooter schemes will be allowed from 4 July in some parts of England, Scotland and Wales, the Government has announced.

Local councils wanting to run a trial will need to apply and be approved by the Department for Transport. 

Many blind and partially sighted people have told us they’re really concerned about the impact this could have, and we’ve been sharing your thoughts about e-scooters with the Government.

Which of our recommendations has the Government taken on board?

E-scooters will by strictly prohibited on pavements: In order to be eligible for a trial, a council will have to show they have considered how they’ll make sure people don’t ride on the pavement. However we’re still concerned about how likely this is to be enforced on a daily basis.

Users will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence to hire an e-scooter: This is important as it will help make sure people stick to the rules. If a someone rents an e-scooter and gets into a crash with a pedestrian, it will mean that person can be traced. 

Insurance will be needed: We also think it’s good that insurance will be needed, as again this provides the opportunity to identify e-scooter drivers involved in any incidents. 

Privately-owned e-scooters are still illegal: We are pleased that private e-scooters remain illegal in public spaces, as this should help keep numbers down. But we’d like to hear more about how this will be enforced, as we know a lot of blind and partially sighted people have had run-ins with e-scooters already – will police be stopping people on private e-scooters? 

Councils need to consider the impact on disabled people: When bidding to be a trial area, councils will have to show they have considered the impact of the trial on people with disabilities, but there is little detail on how they should show this. We would expect that at a bare minimum, local consultation with disability groups should have taken place.

What’s still missing from the plans?

Evaluation: We’re still worried that much more detail is needed on how the trials will be evaluated when they come to an end. The plans propose that in evaluating the trial, the public perception of them should be looked at, including among people with disabilities. However, for us it’s much more than about ‘public perception’. We believe they could have a very real impact on pedestrians, particularly those with sight loss. And we would like detail on how blind and partially sighted people will be involved in the evaluation.

Parking: The plans acknowledge that where e-scooters are parked may cause difficulties for disabled people, and that councils should address this. But we’re disappointed that the plans aren’t precise enough about how to address this. We wanted clear guidance advising parking bays to be on roads wherever possible, and always separated from walkways with detectable kerbs.

Speed limits: We are concerned that the Government announced a maximum design speed of 15.5mph for e-scooters, which is much faster than walking speed. The power limit of 500W and maximum weight of 55kg are also more than we would like. These will be potentially powerful and heavy vehicles going at speeds much faster than pedestrians. 

Sound: We would have liked a requirement for e-scooters to make a detectable sound. The speed, weight and power of these vehicles mean collisions with pedestrians could cause serious injuries or fatalities, and making them easier to hear could help warn pedestrians when they’re nearby.

Next steps

We are continuing to work locally, and monitoring where trials are taking place. We’ll be talking to the Department for Transport about how they are planning to evaluate the trials properly, and looking at gathering feedback ourselves. Stay tuned to find out how you can help us feed back to the Government about how e-scooter trials affect blind and partially sighted people.

Read more about our Chair Eleanor Southwood’s evidence to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into e-scooters.