Reports

E-scooter trial to go ahead despite concerns

E-scooter trial to go ahead despite concerns


Reported by Tom

Published on Monday, September 6th, 2021

street access
Reports

E-scooter trial to go ahead despite concerns

E-scooter trial to go ahead despite concerns


Written by Tom

Published on Monday, September 6th, 2021

street access

Two Lime scooters
Lime is one of the three companies that will be hiring out its scooters in Camden. Photo by Ivan Radic @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/26344495@N05/48143416202

 

Camden will be forging ahead with a trial e-scooter hire scheme this October amid fears it will turn the borough’s streets and pavements into no-go zones for people with visual, auditory and mobility impairments.

Councillor Harrison, the Cabinet Member for a Sustainable Camden, approved the proposal on 6th August after deciding it would help Camden become a greener borough by offering an emission-free alternative to car travel.

The move means heavy-set Dott, Lime and Tier scooters will soon be available to hire in the borough at a cost of 15 pence per minute, with riders permitted to travel around Camden and to and from the City of London and the seven other boroughs participating in the trial.

The Town Hall has given assurances that it has taken steps to minimise the risks posed to riders and other members of the public.

The safety measures include limiting the speed of the vehicles to 12.5-miles-per-hour, allowing riders to use cycle lanes, establishing designated parking bays and creating go-slow areas, such as in markets, where the vehicles will automatically power down to 8 miles-per-hour.

people who are blind, partially sighted and hard of hearing and even with severe hearing loss would find it hard to walk the streets in safety without fear of having an accident which could even be fatal

However, some local Disabled people remain concerned that the new scooters will put pedestrians – especially those with mobility, visual or hearing impairments – in danger.

A deafblind Kentish Town resident who wishes to remain anonymous told Camden Disabled People’s Voices the prospect of a fleet of the silent vehicles arriving on his local streets has left him terrified.

“If the trial goes ahead, people who are blind, partially sighted and hard of hearing and even with severe hearing loss would find it hard to walk the streets in safety without fear of having an accident which could even be fatal,” he said.

He added: “In other trials in the UK, the impact on people with the protected characteristics has been significant. I know that blind and partially sighted people have been hit by hire e-scooters, had their white canes knocked and have tripped over e-scooters left abandoned in the street, leaving them injured, terrified and embarrassed.”

Broadcaster and inclusive design expert Mik Scarlet, who uses a wheelchair and lives near Camden Town, echoed the Kentish Town resident’s concerns, saying: “I totally understand that e-scooters at first glance appear to be a fantastic solution to getting around London in a greener way. The problem is they are a ‘solution’ that create so many problems for disabled people. For myself personally, they cause issues of physical access, as they seem to be dumped all over the pavement by those who use them, blocking my way.”

In response to parking concerns, the council has said it is confident hire scooters will not be dumped randomly around the borough, as is the case with Lime hire bikes, because riders will continue to be charged until they have left the vehicle in a parking bay.

Paul Davis, Camden’s Principal Transport Planner, said: “197 parking bays will be installed in total, so there will be on average 1 bay every 200-300 metres. The bays were provided for dockless bike hire initially but will become joint use for dockless bikes and rental e-scooters.”

Some disabled people and carers have said they are also worried hire scooters will be ridden on pavements although it is illegal to do so.

Robert Spigel, whose daughter Ellie has multiple and profound learning disabilities, said: “Currently there seems little effort to stop cyclists and e-scooter riders using the pavement. Let’s hope the trial forces Camden and the police to bring to a halt the illegal use of e-scooters on pavement and public roads.”

He added: “My biggest concerns on Ellie’s behalf are scooters travelling speedily but silently (on roads and pavements), disregarding traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.”

Some cities in Europe and the US, such as Paris, Barcelona and San Francisco, which launched e-scooter hire schemes several years ago, offer an insight into what may lay in store for Camden if rules are not enforced and scooter fleets expand at a rapid pace.

A fact sheet published by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reports that 15,000 e-scooters flooded the pavements and roads of Paris after their introduction in 2018, leaving Parisians scared of walking through their city. By late 2019, says the report, the situation was so bad that authorities banned the use of scooters on pavements and began issuing 135 Euro fines to rule breakers.

Mik, a frequent traveller to Spain, has seen the impact of scooter schemes in that country.

“I go on holiday to Barcelona a lot and have noticed how unsafe the pavements are now that hire e-scooters have been rolled out across the city. If Camden is going to introduce e-scooter hire schemes, it really has to make sure that they are parked in the right places and driven safely. If they aren’t, disabled people will feel unsafe and unwelcome and find themselves staying at home even more,” he said.

Paul Davis offered reassurance to those anxious that scooters will attempt to weave through pedestrians and wheelchair users on Camden’s footways, saying: “Police will issue fixed penalty notices to any riders witnessed riding on the footway. Also, each rental e-scooter will have a unique registration number and each hire company will know who has hired each rental e-scooter and where they have ridden it.”

However, not everyone shares the council’s confidence that scooter riding on pavements will be effectively monitored or policed.

The e-scooters are unsafe, unstable and unfit for purposes and it is imperative that the trials planned for Camden are withdrawn.

Sarah Gayton, Street Access Campaigns Coordinator for the National Federation of the Blind of the UK, said: “The e-scooter technology is not fit for purpose. Riders are supposed to have a driving license, but someone can scan into the ride and then give that ride to another person without ending it first. This means the new riders’ age or driving licence is not checked and they have not signed up to the terms and conditions of the e-scooter company.”

Sarah, who has Tweeted a number of videos of unsafe scooter riding, added: “There are serious problems identified in ongoing trials from dangerous rider behaviour and the unsafe parking of e-scooters causing trip hazards. The e-scooters are unsafe, unstable and unfit for purposes and it is imperative that the trials planned for Camden are withdrawn.”

The vulnerability of riders themselves has also caused concern, with at least three fatal accidents involving scooters hitting the headlines over the summer.

Jill Huntesmith, who works for speaking up group Synergy, agrees that scooter riders are too vulnerable on Camden’s roads.

“I think it’s (the scooter scheme) is a good idea, but riders have no protection, no crash helmet, no indicators and it’s totally impossible to put your hand out on a scooter if you are turning left or right.”

Jill, who has a learning disability, also indicated the scheme may be too complicated for people with cognitive impairments to be able to use.

“The majority of people who have a learning disability will not be able to use the e-scooter hire scheme – it is linked to bank accounts, so it is complicated and expensive.”

Statistics on scooter accidents are not yet available in the UK, but data from the US shows a year-on-year increase in accidents involving e-scooters as their numbers increased.

The council’s own post-consultation report reveals that 272 out of 435 (63%) respondents to their questionnaire were opposed to an e-scooter hire scheme in Camden.

A 2020 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found there was 1 death involving e-scooters in 2017, five in 2018 and 21 in 2019. Meanwhile there were 7,700 emergency department visits associated with e-scooters in 2017, 14,500 in 2018 and 27,700 in 2019.

Feedback given during the e-scooter consultation undertaken by Camden Council between 21st June 2021 and 12th July 2021 suggests disabled people are not alone in being concerned about the roll-out of the new scheme.

The council’s own post-consultation report reveals that 272 out of 435 (63%) respondents to their questionnaire were opposed to an e-scooter hire scheme in Camden.

However, council officers pressed ahead anyway, believing people’s concerns were based on their experience of private e-scooters, which have always been illegal and unsupervised by transport authorities and local councils.

Asked if the Council was sending out mixed messages by introducing an e-scooter hire scheme at a time when it is illegal to ride privately owned scooters, Paul Davis said: “The trials taking place in a number of towns and cities are all related to rental e-scooters and are heavily regulated and controlled. We will work with the Met Police to progress enforcement against private e-scooters in Camden and we hope that this will make our stance very clear.”

 

 

 

Written by Tom


Tom is leading the Camden Disabled People's Voices citizen journalism project. He works for Camden Disability Action as an Engagement Officer.

Read all of Tom's articles

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