Sight loss charity’s fears over e-scooters

Plans for trial e-scooter rental schemes have been put on hold, much to the relief of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which feels these could be a menace for visually-impaired pedestrians.

Tuesday, 8th September 2020, 2:40 pm
RNIB Scotland is pushing for more protection for people with sight loss and other disabilities. Photo: John Macdougall/AFP via Getty Images)

Use of privately owned e-scooters remains illegal but the UK Department for Transport invited councils to carry out rental trials in their area in a bid to reduce car usage and demand on public transport.

However, the Scottish Government has said it needs more time to amend guidance and legislation, and RNIB Scotland is pushing for more protection for people with sight loss and other disabilities.

When a trial scheme was launched in Middlesborough there were reports of near misses and underage users, and one shopping centre considered lodging a formal complaint.

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.”

Should any local authority choose to proceed with e-scooter rentals, RNIB Scotland wants that 12.5 mile per hour speed limit to be enforced along with ensuring  scooters are used only on roads or cycle lanes, and are left in designated parking bays separate from pavements.

Mr Adams added: “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.”

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has also questioned the promotion of 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.”