The Ramblers are concerned about the introduction of e-scooter sharing schemes in England. Local authorities recently gained powers to run or allow e-scooter rental schemes for a 12-month trial period. The Department for Transport (DfT) has brought forward this planned change to the rules with the aim of reducing pressure on public transport networks during the pandemic. The use of privately owned e-scooters will remain illegal.
While we acknowledge the current pressures on public transport, we fear that the introduction of e-scooters on a large scale will make some walking journeys more dangerous and less pleasant, undermining the Government’s objectives to get more people walking.
The speed and stealth of e-scooters present a serious danger to people walking, particularly those with mobility issues, the visually impaired, the elderly and young children. E-scooters are quiet and can travel at speeds of up to 15.5km per hour, creating a more hostile environment for walkers. It’s not just e-scooters in motion that can cause problems. Scooters abandoned on pavements after use and docking facilities may cause obstructions and increase pavement clutter.
We are not confident our existing infrastructure will be able to safely accommodate an increase in e-scooter use. Greater numbers of e-scooters will require a corresponding increase in space to scoot, yet our streets are already under huge pressure due to social distancing measures, the need to queue outside essential shops and the increase in tables and seating for outdoor dining or socialising. The poor state of many streets and the dangers of road traffic will lead some to ride on pavements with obvious safety implications.
E-scooters may also discourage physical activity. Evidence from Europe, where e-scooter hire schemes have been in place for some time, suggests that very few car trips convert to e-scooter journeys but they do replace walking (and cycling) journeys, reducing rates of physical activity.
The Ramblers urge the Government to monitor closely any new rental schemes, including whether they encourage modal shift away from cars and increase active travel or not. The DfT must respond quickly to tighten guidance for local authorities if problems become apparent.