London Vision is deeply concerned and disappointed to hear the announcements made regarding the legalisation of e-scooters from this weekend, Saturday 4 July. They represent a very real hazard on our streets and endanger blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Furthermore, the lack of real rules and provision has the potential to threaten the safety of both the rider and pedestrians using London’s roads and pathways.

In the wake of COVID-19, local governments are striving to introduce environmentally friendly policies and initiatives which will lead to the reduction of pollution in cities, particularly London. However, in the rush to implement new initiatives, governments have failed to consider the views and needs of disabled people, particularly blind and partially sighted people. 

Changes to the built environment such as widened pavements, queues outside shops, and changes to passenger flows in railway and underground stations have already disproportionately disadvantaged blind and partially sighted pedestrians and passengers. Adding more pavement obstacles, such as discarded rented e-scooters, and forcing blind and partially sighted people to navigate around these same vehicles on the city’s footways will only disadvantage blind and partially sighted people further. 

In June London Vision submitted a consultation to the Department for Transport expressing our substantial concerns around e-scooters and the lack of provisions regulating them. E-scooters present significant hazards to pedestrians from a variety of concern groups, but also to riders. E-scooters can reach speeds of up to 15mph and some weigh up to 40kg. Crashes at this speed and weight pose significant risks to riders and pedestrians. In consultation, we proposed a speed limit, however, this appears to have been ignored. We also proposed that e-scooters should make a sound so that pedestrians – especially blind and partially sighted ones – are able to hear them approaching. Similarly, this suggestion has been ignored. 

From this weekend onwards it will be legal for rented e-scooters only to be driven in the capital. Private e-scooters remain illegal, presenting a problem in the issuing of any potential penalties around improper use. How will helmet use, adherence to docking guidelines and road rules – such as riding on pavements, jumping red lights, and observing speed limits – be implemented? 

Poor riding behaviour is already exhibited by scooter riders across the capital and is unpunished – how will e-scooter providers and the authorities be able to ensure that users of rented e-scooters obey the rules? And, even if the rules are implemented, ticket issuers need also to be able to differentiate between illegal private e-scooters, and legal rented e-scooters. Any rules implemented for rented e-scooters (including their legality) are then at risk of exploitation by private e-scooter owners. 

The speed at which the decision to rush through e-scooter introduction has been taken suggests that the above concerns, and the views of disability groups in the capital, have been disregarded. The Mayor of London, and the Government, have a commitment to making London cleaner, more sustainable and more liveable for Londoners. However, it is essential that this does not come at the expense of the capital’s disabled population.

Read London Vision's guidance on the introduction of e-scooters; read London Vision's advice on travelling on public transport. Visit this page for more resources during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted 3 July 2020 

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