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MP committee supports e-scooter legalisation, but impact on disabled people must be fully considered

The Transport Select Committee has announced it supports the swift legalisation of e-scooters, despite concerns being raised by e-scooter trials.

Our chair Ellie Southwood spoke to the committee of MPs back in July to inform this new report, making very clear the concerns RNIB has around e-scooters. We’ve already heard about the impact of illegal use of privately owned e-scooters, and difficulties caused by cycling on pavements. So we made it clear to the committee we were seriously worried about the effect these new vehicles could have on blind and partially sighted pedestrians’ ability to make walking journeys.

As a result, the committee’s report recognises some of the key concerns we have been raising about e-scooters for blind and partially sighted pedestrians - notably around pavement use and parking - and makes recommendations to the Government to address these.

However, despite its acknowledgement of these concerns, the report still calls for swift legalisation. We disagree with this, and think it is more important to wait until the outcome of e-scooter rental trials to make this decision. The trials provide a useful opportunity to monitor the impact of this type of vehicle, so it would be more sensible to wait to see what they find. The report also recommends removing the requirement for a provisional driving licence, which seems at odds with the desire to robustly enforce rider behaviour.

Already, significant safety concerns have been raised by e-scooter trials. Both the Coventry and Middlesbrough trials were paused following reports of e-scooters being used in pedestrianised areas. Privately-owned e-scooters are likely to have even fewer restrictions on where they can ride compared to the trials, and can be modified.

Use on pavements and enforcement

The committee highlights our concerns that blind and partially sighted people already experience problems with cyclists riding on the pavement illegally and that this could be exacerbated by the introduction of e-scooters. 

The report calls on Government to identify and evaluate measures to stop illegal pavement use. It also sets out that there must be a robust enforcement framework to make sure that e-scooters are not ridden on pavements.

However, the report also recommends removing the requirement for users to have a full or provisional driver's licence.  We think this conclusion is unhelpful as requiring a driver’s licence can help with enforcement, make riders more traceable, ensure they are old enough to operate such a fast-moving vehicle, and keep streets safer.

Pavement obstructions

The committee also recognises the concerns we have with the parking of hire e-scooters, following experiences with dockless bikes. It is our position that e-scooter hire schemes must have fixed docking stations. 

The committee calls for the evaluation of the trials to look fully at this issue and consider if regulation might be needed to make sure e-scooters do not become an obstruction on our pavements.

What’s next?

The Government should respond to the report within the next 60 days. We will be writing to Ministers and MPs to explain our concerns with the proposals and urging them to take on board the clear message that any legalisation of e-scooters has to take into account the needs of disabled people. This should include waiting until the outcome of e-scooter rental trials before making any decision on legalising their private use, ensuring robust enforcement measures to stop the use of e-scooters on pavements and for action to prevent hire e-scooters becoming a dangerous trip hazard.

Meanwhile trial e-scooter hire schemes have begun in a number of areas across the country. We are continuing to work closely with local authorities to make these schemes as accessible as possible – calling for scooters to make a noise so blind and partially sighted people can hear them approach, for fixed docking stations to prevent pavement obstructions and for rider training, among other measures.

If you’re blind or partially sighted, and have any experiences of e-scooters in rental trial areas you’re willing to share, we want to hear from you. We’ll use this information to make sure politicians and local decision-makers understand the impact of e-scooters on blind and partially sighted pedestrians.