A year-long trial of electric scooters in Staffordshire is slated to end this month.
While they can be a convenient way to get around for some city-goers, misuse of the machines has become a problem for others.
As part of a national pilot run by the Association of Environment, Business, Planning and Transport Directors (ADEPT) and funded by the Department of Transport, e-scooters have become a common parking lot on sidewalks in Stafford and Newcastle.
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Residents and visitors who have to travel shorter distances within the two cities are encouraged to rent one of the more than 150 e-scooters for their short trip instead of a car.
The program aims to reduce emissions and congestion on urban roads and is run locally by Staffordshire County Council, transport partner Amey and e-scooter providers Ginger in Stafford and Zwings in Newcastle.
Users must download an app before they can take the e-scooter and be at least 16 years old in Newcastle, 18 years old in Stafford and have a provisional or full driver’s license or motorcycle.
Since the program started in Staffordshire in September 2020, thousands of e-scooter trips have been taken – with one intrepid user covering 38 km (23.6 miles) on their journey.
But the vehicles have not proven themselves with everyone. And it remains illegal to drive a private e-scooter on public roads.
District Councilor Mark Winnington, who represents Gnosall and Doxey, asked at a recent meeting what measures have been taken to control the use of e-scooters.
He said, “Although I fully support projects to combat climate change, I am increasingly concerned about the abuse of electric scooters across the county. I have received many communications from local residents who have seen younger people ride these scooters in unsafe ways.
“Could I ask the cabinet member what controls are in place to register these scooters that fall under the county supported system? I would also like to know if driver’s licenses are checked.
“Who enforces the action on Staffordshire County Council contributions and is responsible if someone is injured? Who is the person or organization responsible for this?
“I have had many residents who were very concerned about the abuse of electric scooters. I see that they are registered at 12 mph, but if you hit you at 12 mph it could harm people. “
Councilor David Williams, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, replied, “The problem we might have with these scooters is that many of them are illegal, not the ones in the process. They can be bought quite freely.
“When we started the e-scooter test last year, an illegal scooter came right through the place where we were doing the photo shoot.
“The government is looking at it in a white paper and this could be taken out of our hands. But currently, with the ongoing trials, it is the responsibility of the operator if someone misuses their scooter or someone is injured. That was part of the deal when it came from the government.
“The e-scooter pilot programs in Stafford and Newcastle were generally positively received by users and are growing. As you would expect, there are several controls in place to encourage safe use and we are working closely with operators and the police on this matter.
“We operate a parking space model across both test areas. This means that e-scooters may only be parked and parked in designated parking bays that have been agreed by the operators and the municipality without (the user) suffering a fine and a possible account blocking.
“Every e-scooter in the test is limited to 12 miles per hour, the legal limit of the DfT is 24 miles per hour. E-scooters cannot be rented by anyone under the age of 16 (18 in Stafford). You need to upload a picture of your driver’s license and a selfie.
“Together with the operator, we determine the area of application. E-scooters stop outside this area. There are some areas in the operational area, such as pedestrian zones, where the use of an e-scooter does not make sense. E-scooters come to a standstill in these areas. “
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Mr. Williams added that in “slow zones” where e-scooters are allowed but there is a high amount of pedestrian and vehicle movements, the speed of e-scooters will be reduced to 6.5 miles per hour. There is also a curfew at 10 p.m. on the journeys, so that no new journeys can begin after this time.
He said, “A small number of users have been banned for unsafe driving or anti-social behavior. This is done by the operators when incidents are reported to them. When using the built-in GPS tracking system, a driver usually receives a warning and then possibly a ban.
“We’re working with everyone, including the police, to improve driver training and reduce abuse. Driver’s licenses are verified prior to rental although it is recognized that, like any system, this is potentially subject to abuse. The operators are constantly working to improve driver training in this area in order to minimize this.
“The council is in close contact with the Department of Transport, which collects data from all e-scooter pilot areas before deciding whether to legalize e-scooters for use on public roads across England.
“The control of private e-scooters that operate outside the control of rental programs like the two in Staffordshire will clearly be the subject of extensive debate and scrutiny.”