E-scooters launch in London as firm involved insists they're 'as safe as possible'

7 June 2021, 08:22

A trial involving rental e-scooters launches in London today
A trial involving rental e-scooters launches in London today. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A trial involving rental e-scooters launches in London on Monday, with one of the firms involved insisting they are "as safe as possible".

The electric-powered scooters are "very stable" and have "the best possible safety features" such as dual brakes and a reduced top speed, Lime’s director of policy, Alan Clarke, said amid concerns about the safety of riders and other road users.

The scheme is initially restricted to a handful of areas in the capital, including Canary Wharf and four boroughs in south-west London: Richmond, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.

Read more: E-scooters will be trialled on London's roads despite safety worries

Read more: Police launch crackdown on e-scooter riders in south London

Similar trials have been held in urban areas across Britain since July last year.

Private e-scooters can only legally be used in the UK on private land but are a common sight on roads and pavements.

Mr Clarke said: "The safety standards are really, really high and that contrasts starkly with private e-scooters, which don't have to pass any standards at all in order to be put onto the street, because by definition they're already illegal.

"I think people are going to really notice that and we certainly expect people to look at the scooters that we're putting and see how much safer those are."

In April, a three-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when he was hit from behind by an e-scooter while walking on a pavement with his grandmother in Feltham, west London.

YouTube star and TV presenter Emily Hartridge became the first person in the UK to be killed while riding an e-scooter when she was struck by a lorry in Battersea, south London, in July 2019.

Charity Guide Dogs has called for the sale of private high-speed e-scooters to be banned and expressed fear their use means "more people with sight loss will be forced to change their route or avoid independent travel altogether".

However, people using scooters as part of the trial can only ride on roads, in cycle lanes and on cycle paths.

Mr Clarke insisted the organisations have "really taken the time to design a trial that's going to be as safe as possible".

He added: "There's a real demand from people to use this form of zero-emission and convenient transport.

"As we start to build back again coming out of lockdown and bounce back after the pandemic, what we're already seeing is that people are looking for new ways to travel."

The 12-month trial has been set up by Transport for London, London Councils - which represents the city's local authorities - and operators Lime, Dott and Tier.

The devices have a maximum speed of 12.5mph, which is below the 15.5mph limit set by the Department for Transport.

Other features which go beyond national guidelines include front and rear lights which are always be on throughout a rental and an audible warning system that can be used without the rider adjusting their grip of the handlebar.

It costs £1 to unlock a Lime e-scooter plus a fee of 16p per minute.