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Sight loss charities urge Glasgow Council to postpone e-scooter trial

Two national sight loss charities have raised concerns over moves by Glasgow City Council to trial the use of rented e-scooters.

The Council's city administration committee will today consider whether to give the go-ahead for a pilot scheme. But both RNIB Scotland and Guide Dogs Scotland warn their introduction could present a potentially dangerous hazard to blind and partially sighted pedestrians.

Although the use of privately owned e-scooters remains illegal, the Department for Transport has invited councils throughout the UK 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 for public transport now that social distancing requirements are in place.

But the charities point to pilot schemes already underway in England where there have been numerous reports of underage users and near misses with pedestrians.

E-scooter users must be aged 18 or over with a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence. But a trial scheme in Coventry was put on hold after just five days following complaints that rented e-scooters were being ridden on pavements, on the wrong side of the road and were being left all over the city.

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. E-scooters are not light and a collision with someone could result in a serious injury."

Wendy Rankin, regional head of operations for Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “Trials of e-scooters elsewhere in the UK have resulted in cases of unsafe and anti-social use of e-scooters. These incidents pose serious questions about the safety of both the trials and whether E-scooters should be approved for wider use once the trials are over”.

The charities are urging that, where trials do go ahead, e-scooters are only used on roads or cycle lanes and that they are left in designated parking bays after use.

Mr Adams said: "We are concerned, too, that without robust enforcement e-scooters almost certainly will be used on pavements. We are calling for effective enforcement and full public consultation at the end of any trial period on whether they should be legalised in the longer term.

"We urge Glasgow City Council to note the many problems e-scooter trials have caused elsewhere; acknowledge the real potential hazard they can present to people with sight loss and other disabilities, and pause plans pending a review of trials elsewhere."

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety questioned the rationale for promoting e-scooters as active travel at all. ‘"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 walking, cycling and public transport trips, all of which involve physical activity and have the associated health benefits, e-scooters will tend to reduce active travel."