In July 2020 the Government launched e-scooter trials. E-scooters exploded onto our streets, not just legal e-scooters, run by rental companies as part of the Government trials, but illegal, privately owned e-scooters were suddenly everywhere. A motorised vehicle that could only legally be ridden on private land was killing, often teenage, riders on our roads, terrifying pedestrians on the pavement and on one devastating occasion causing lifechanging injuries to a toddler hit as she played in a local park. Estimates by The Times are that there may be 750,000 personally owned e-scooters.

Since the start of the trials (until November last year) 66,000 e-scooters have been approved in 31 trials across 54 areas, these are the ones that can be legally used on roads (although not on pavements). At the end of November, there were 23,141 e-scooters available to rent across all areas. Roughly 13 million trips had been taken, over 18.5 million miles travelled, and 3 million hours ridden in total across the rental trials. To date, around a million individual users have rented an e-scooter as part of the trials.

Last year, a year in, concerned by the chaos, confusion and injury I asked how safe e-scooters were? I was worried then that the “fatal free for all” would continue while the Department for Transport assessed the trial data to decide whether to fully legalise all e-scooters or limit them to authorised rental schemes. In a meeting with the Minister last week I learned that the Department doesn’t have enough data to make that decision and have extended the trial to the end of this year.

The data is difficult but extrapolating from data gained in US e-scooter trials compared to London cycle accident data led to an assessment that e-scooters are 100 times more dangerous than bicycles. Sarah Gayton, of the National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK) has been looking at the accident and injury data from the legal e-scooters in Bristol and has found that e-scooters are 36 times  more dangerous than bicycles. It is obviously impossible to get data for the illegal e-scooters, as they shouldn’t be there, they are not being monitored.

In a recent debate on e-scooters in the House of Lords my colleague Baroness Neville-Rolfe observed that “the pavements have become a jungle”. She also pointed out that on the roads, police figures show that there have been 258 e-scooter collisions in London alone during the first 6 months of 2021, although this is likely to be an underestimate, as many collisions go unreported.

The proponents of e-scooters claim that the benefits are economic, environmental and increased convenience although throughout the debate these claims were explored and dismissed. E-scooters are predominantly manufactured overseas and without any economic benefit from production it’s difficult to see where else the domestic economic benefit might come from. The companies involved in the London trials, Dot, Lime and Tier are Dutch, American and German respectively.

The high carbon cost in manufacturing e-scooters, as well as the rare minerals required in their batteries seem to outweigh any potential environmental benefit. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, unless e-scooters are used daily for many years, and replace a car, their impact on the environment is ultimately damaging due to those carbon and mining costs. E-scooters do not seem to be replacing private cars, the average journey is 2km, which suggests it is more likely they  are replacing walking and cycling. Baroness Sanderson asked the Government that if their assessment shows that e-scooters are replacing active travel rather than car journeys that they will use that in their decision on how to proceed with regulation.

Finally, the successful roll out of e-scooters internationally was mentioned by the Minister as a reason for feeling optimistic about trials here in the UK but we learned that Stockholm is now halving its number of e-scooters from 23,000 to 12,000, Copenhagen has banned them in the city centre and Oslo has capped the number at 8,000. 

It should be investigated as to whether e-scooters are dangerous by their very design.  Riders have died, pedestrians dealt life changing injuries. It is high time to pause, consider the data to date and plot a more positive, inclusive plan for all our safe, secure futures.

Share this page