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Are E-Scooters a nuisance on our streets?

by David Withers, Partner, and Michael Turner, Paralegal, in Irwin Mitchell's Serious Injury Team. 

Like many local authorities, Hackney Borough Council is keen to encourage a healthy lifestyle by encouraging walking and cycling in the local area. However, some residents feel that this is not always as safe as it may sound due to an increased use of private e-scooters.

In July 2021, Julia Lafferty, a Hackney resident, wrote a letter to the local newspaper expressing concern with regards to her safety when walking around her local area due to nuisance e-scooter riders. 

Mrs Lafferty explained that the majority of riders appear to be teenagers, or in some cases younger, and e-scooters can often be seen exceeding local speed limits, running red lights and even being ridden along pavements, on pedestrian crossings and within green spaces.

The National Federation for the Blind's e-scooter petition

The National Federation for the Blind share Mrs Lafferty’s concerns and have raised a petition with regards to proposed Government trial of rentable scooters in the UK.

How do we police e-scooters?

Whilst it is applaudable that thoughts are turning to greener transport methods, this must come with strict rules with regard to the use of vehicles such as e-scooters. 

Clearly, e-scooters ought to only be used in particular designated areas at safe speeds, leaving our green spaces and pedestrian areas free to be enjoyed. 

The problem, it appears lies within the governing of this. 

In her letter Mrs Lafferty quotes Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens of the Metropolitan Police who said that e-scooters are “notoriously dangerous” and “absolute death traps”. However, Mrs Lafferty then goes on to recount an incident whereby she complained directly to a local police constable and community support officer about the irresponsible use of e-scooters in her neighbourhood only to be told that there was little they felt that they could do. 

It appears then that different stances are being taken by different members of the police force. A firm and consistent approach is required across the force to ensure that nuisance e-scooter riders are dealt with appropriately.

A loophole for private e-scooters

What is more, ownership of private e-scooters must also be governed more efficiently so that minors are not able to access these so freely.  Similarly, the rules surrounding the ability to rent an e-scooter must be clear and strictly enforced.

Environmental advantages

Whilst Mrs Lafferty also raises concerns over the sustainability of e-scooters, their increased use ought, on the whole, to be seen as a positive. In a world where climate change and global warming is becoming more and more prevalent, they offer a greener way of getting around. Alongside the bicycle, their popularity is likely to increase. 

There should be no barrier to e-scooters being used alongside pedestrians and cyclist so long as strict rules are in place, followed and enforced to ensure the safety of riders and non-riders alike. 

The need for compulsory insurance

There is so much in the news about e-scooters. There increased use appears inevitable. 

The law and the reality are very far apart in terms of insurance, the requirement of a licence, the speed limit, and where they can be ridden. 

It is clearly in everyone’s interests to ensure that there is compulsory insurance. If the courts describe a vehicle as a “lethal weapon”, it is difficult to see how a mechanically propelled e-scooter, which can travel at excessive speed, is not. It is self-evidently not just for innocent pedestrians to suffer life-changing injury with no remedy available to them.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people following road accidents at our dedicated serious injury section.

I am not blind or disabled and yet I feel that my safety is being threatened by e-scooter riders whenever I embark upon a walk around Hackney.  I therefore fully support the petition to 10 Downing Street by the National Federation for the Blind who have circulated all CEOS, leaders and elected councillors in local government detailing their concerns about the serious hazards presented by e-scooters.”