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E-scooters pose potential hazard for blind and partially sighted pedestrians warns charity

RNIB Scotland has welcomed news that moves to trial the use of rented e-scooters north of the border have been put on hold.

To date, no Scottish local authority has confirmed plans, but the charity fears their later introduction could have unintended consequences for blind and partially sighted pedestrians and wants regulations tightened.

Although the use of privately owned e-scooters remains illegal, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) has invited councils throughout the country to carry out trials on the use of rented e-scooters in their areas. The move is part of a drive to reduce the number of cars on roads and manage demand on public transport now that social distancing requirements are in place.

But the Scottish Government has said guidance and legislation will take longer to amend to allow for their use north of the border.

RNIB Scotland will press for tighter safeguards to protect people with sight loss and other disabilities.

E-scooter users must be aged 16 or over with a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence. But already there are reports of problems in Middlesborough, the first town in England to introduce a trial scheme, involving underage users and near misses with elderly pedestrians, while one local shopping centre has considered lodging a formal complaint about the scheme.

RNIB Scotland director James Adams said: "While we support moves to encourage active travel and reduce congestion, our concerns about e-scooters are that they are silent, so people with sight loss won't know if they are approaching, and also that the maximum speed permitted has been set at 15.5 miles per hour, when we pressed for no more than 12.5.

"E-scooters are not light and a collision with anyone travelling at 15.5 mph could potentially result in a serious injury."

The charity is urging any Scottish local authority considering a trial scheme to set a maximum speed limit of 12.5mph; ensure e-scooters are only used on roads or cycle-lanes; and that they are left in designated parking bays after use which are separated from pavements.

Mr Adams said: "Just as people with sight loss won't be able to see or hear an e-scooter, it may not always be obvious to someone riding one they are approaching a pedestrian who won't know they're there.

"We are concerned, too, that without robust enforcement e-scooters will probably be used on pedestrian walkways. These vehicles can be heavy, so we have serious worries about the risk of collisions.

"We are calling for effective enforcement along with a nationwide awareness campaign to inform the public about the dangers this presents to disabled people. We'd also like a full public consultation at the end of any 12-month trial period on whether e-scooter rental schemes and private-use e-scooters should be legalised in the longer-term."

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has questioned the rationale of promoting e-scooters as active travel. ‘"E-scooters are not active travel," it said. "They involve no physical exertion and provide no health benefit to the user. Because e-scooters largely replace walk, cycle and public transport trips, all of which involve physical activity and have the associated health benefits, e-scooters will tend to reduce active travel."