During the course of the pandemic we have had the adverts warning of COVID as the silent killer but now as we start to return to normal the Government seem happy to introduce a different silent risk.
Thanks to adult cyclists using them as cycle paths, pavements are no longer as safe as they once were, and it looks likely to get worse with pedestrians having to contend with even more electric (E) scooters.
E-scooters are currently being trialled in 32 cities around the UK and it is anticipated that the Government will make them road legal, possibly as early as 2022. Elsewhere (including Sussex) they are presently only legal on private land, so those e-Scooters that you see on roads, promenades or pavements are uninsured and being used illegally.
The trial allows riders to rent e-scooters if they are over 16 and have a provisional or full driving licence. They can be used on the road or cycle paths up to a maximum speed of 15.5 mph but not pavements or in pedestrian areas. They are insured by the rental company; helmets are recommended but not compulsory and usual driving laws apply in respect of the use of mobiles and drink/drug driving.
In principle they sound great as a convenient eco-friendly way of keeping cars off the road, but Coventry suspended their trial after just 5 days when guess what? E-scooters were being used on pavements and in pedestrian areas! Newcastle also had to turn the e-scooters off overnight following misuse and there have already been a number of drink-driving convictions involving e-scooters.
It doesn’t seem to bode well and also begs the question of whether it is ethical that many well-known retailers are happy to sell (albeit with information that they are illegal) e scooters that they know will be used illegally. Likewise, the Police seem to be ignoring breaches of not only the current but future regulations. It may be that better control can be enforced on e-scooter rental firms, but assuming privately owned e-scooters are legalised all the regulations in world won’t stop them becoming a dangerous nuisance unless there is strict enforcement.
There is a certain irony after the COVID ‘don’t kill granny’ messaging and it is not too much of a leap to see an e-scooter with the speed limiter removed being used on a pavement with the rider under the influence of drink or drugs and on their mobile phone. And they are also likely to be used by criminals!
An insurance market will develop if they become legal, although as insurers will be obliged to pay liability claims under Road Traffic Act legislation, users should be aware that the insurer will almost certainly retain the right to recover their costs from the rider if they are forced to pay out where e-scooters are being used illegally.