OPINION: blind people at the complete mercy of anti-social e-scooter riders

11.00 | 14 February 2022 | | | 4 comments

Image: NFBUK/Sarah Gayton

Sarah Gayton from the National Federation of the Blind UK explains why e-scooters pose such a danger to blind and visually impaired people – and why making them legal will only make the problems worse.


The very nature of e-scooters means they can easily be ridden on pavements and public spaces, which blind and visually impaired people use to independently navigate the towns and cities where they live, work, study and visit.

They are often ridden at speed, many with two people on one machine and whizzing in and out of pedestrians on the pavements.

This is absolutely terrifying for any pedestrian, let alone those who cannot see them coming and are unable to move out of their way.

Blind people are at the complete mercy of these anti-social e-scooter riders who are frequently seen racing on pavements to keep up with their mates or simply wanting to get somewhere fast, or to by-pass red traffic lights.

This is simply not safe for blind people – and it is clear from reports in the press that blind and visually impaired people are being hit, injured and frightened by e-scooters. Guide Dogs are also being put in danger by this reckless rider behaviour and some blind people are having their white canes ripped from their hands and run over.

In a flurry of press announcements last month, the three e-scooter companies operating in London announced they are undertaking research into developing a sound for the e-scooter. However, what seems to have been forgotten is the promise of a sound was made over 14 months ago, in November 2020, by another e-scooter operator in the UK.

The sound should have been on the e-scooters from the start and it is an absolute scandal that the companies were allowed to operate without one.

Adding a sound is not the solution which will bring respite to blind and visually impaired people; it will actually compound the problem as it is clear after 20 months of trials that the e-scooter companies and police cannot prevent both legal and illegal e-scooter riders from using pedestrian space.

Sarah Leadbetter, NFBUKs national campaigns officer, who is visually impaired and a Guide Dog user, explains her concerns – which are echoed by others:

“E-scooters have turned our pavements into jungles and by simply adding a noise, it will not keep us safe.

“As a visually impaired person I have to concentrate very hard when I am working with my Guide Dog. Given how fast these e-scooters move and how noisy city centres can be, it is more than likely I will not hear the sound until the last second as they whizz past me on the pavement.

“This could make me jump, lose my balance and break my concentration, leading to disorientation and a very frightening experience. Even worse, I or my Guide Dog could be hit and seriously hurt in a collision.

“I am positive the people undertaking this work do not understand how dangerous e-scooters are, with or without sound. The trials simply need to be shut down as they will never be safe.”

In the trial areas, pavements and public spaces been taken over with parked and dumped rental e-scooters when they are not in use. This has created new dangerous trip hazards and obstructions for blind and visually impaired people, which is still a serious ongoing problem.

The two photos below show the new so-called super pedestrian e-scooter in Nottingham, still dangerously blocking pavements and putting blind and vulnerable pedestrians at risk from tripping over them.

Image: NFBUK/Sarah Gayton

Image: NFBUK/Sarah Gayton

When people comment about making e-scooters legal, they forget there is already legislation prohibiting private use of e-scooters on the public highway – and that the trial e-scooters are also regulated. This has not stopped the on-going anti-social riding behaviour of e-scooters across the UK.

What is urgently needed is for the loopholes that allow companies to sell private e-scooters to be closed. These machines are not very robust and would very quickly disappear from the street if people could not replace them.

The problems with the rental e-scooters could be solved in an instant – they just need to be switched off.

The safety and sanctuary of our pavements will be lost for ever if the e-scooters trials are allowed to continue and private ones become legalised. It will open the floodgates for anyone to own one and the pavements will become overrun by them.

Blind and visually impaired pedestrians need access to pavements and it is very clear their safety and accessibility is literally being pushed aside in trying to accommodate e-scooters in the UK. This cannot continue and it is clear these machines are not only making pedestrians’ lives an absolute misery, they are also inherently dangerous by design for the riders.

It is time for the Government to take action and get all e-scooters off the streets once and for all.

Sarah Gayton, Street Access Campaign Coordinator, National Federation of the Blind of the UK

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    I guess we really do need to take into account that micro-mobility is developing and there is huge demand to enable movement that does not need a motor vehicle. Yes this has to be done in a way that fully considers if it disproportionately affects those with disabilities under a public sector equality duty.

    However we should take into account that the government pilots ore-dispose e-scooters to be abandoned randomly be being rented and not being a private asset. If I had just paid £500 for an e-scooter then I would hardly be leaving it on a pavement for anyone to steal or trash. I would put it in a secure parking facility with a secure lock rather than abandoning it on the pavement like the photos above.

    What the government needs to do is to stop kicking the micromobility e-can down the road and put into place a radical review of mobility to include making walking, cycling and e-scooting safe for all. That means 20mph as a default in towns and villages unless there are segregated facilities for walkers, cyclists and e-scooter users. Rented e-scooters do have their place alongside private e-scooters and cycles, and e-bikes and e-cargo bikes. The government needs to get its act together. Do that and cyclists and scooter riders won’t be tempted to use the pavements.

    Oh, and at the same time adopt the EU directive on motor vehicle specification. Its dithering on that also.


    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (2) | Disagree (9)
    --7

    I agree with Christine Young’s comments and have taken this up myself with Council, Government and the Transport Minister.

    We need to be talking about this. We need our Pavements back. It is not acceptable to allow reckless cyclists to continue riding toward pedestrians on the pavement. Some like to make out its just the minority doing this, but in our town centres, now it is the majority of cyclists, causing a real safety concern to pedestrians in public places, pedestrian zones and pavements.

    Now it is all well and good saying cyclists and e-scooter riders just need to apply common sense. They have had years to apply common sense, and the truth is, pavement cyclists do not care about pedestrians at all.

    This lack of caring and ignorance, reckless cycling on pavements towards pedestrians is a luxury to the cyclist and e-scooter rider we cannot afford to have and should not have to tolerate.

    Now we have put up with this for years, and it seems the Government prioritise pedestrian safety as a lower non urgent priority. Yet it is serious for the people it affects and very dangerous.

    We need more funds for Police to cover road traffic offences in our streets. I have never witnessed police stopping a cyclist on the pavement, nor e-scooter rider. This lack of Police enforcement is to blame for the mess we are in today.

    You read about the odd force enforcing, but this should be happening everywhere nation wide.

    If pavement cycling and e-scooter riding is against the law, it should not be an option as to whether this is enforced, due to police discretion.

    Peter Levy did an interview on pavement cycling back in 2017 time, you can look it up on YouTube under Cycle Pavement Cycling. We are now 2022 and nothing has changed.

    I believe cyclists should be responsible for there behaviour, and they are not in the main. They should be licensed taxed and insured. And subject to accountability that anyone else riding a vehicle has to have.
    They need education so that riding on the pavement is no longer the norm.

    No one seems to care for blind pedestrians or the weak or just people walking. Now it time now for change. We need a nation wide crack down on pavement cyclists. We need more traffic police to enforce it, other wise it will continue not to be enforced.

    We cannot and must not continue to accept this Behaviour.

    If anyone reading this feels as strongly as I do, would you join with me in reaching out to the transport minister, taking footage, contacting your council and asking do they have Civil wardens for pavement cyclists.

    Keep highlighting the issue, do not be fobbed off, and do not take no we are doing nothing for an answer.

    E-scooters will not save the planet, they are dangerous illegal to ride and want banning. It Should not be about pleasure, it should be about safety.


    Annoymous
    Agree (50) | Disagree (0)
    +50

    These e-scooters, plus the fear and danger caused by pavement cyclists, are literally ruining the lives of disabled and elderly pedestrians like me. I have a mobility disability but used to enjoy walking to the shops or to visit friends, aided by my crutches. Now I, and an increasing number of my elderly friends and neighbours, and disabled people of all ages, are having to avoid going out unless we take a taxi or choose a time of day when it is (we hope) quieter. We are constantly looking over our shoulders as these scooters and bikes come at speed out of nowhere. At night it is worse as even if we are sighted it is difficult or impossible to see them as they often don’t have lights.

    As the e-scooters and bikes whoosh past us on the pavements we are traumatised by the repeated near misses and lose our confidence. Yet even although this impacts on our whole lives, our mental trauma is not counted as an injury by the Dept of Transport, the police or politicians. We are also threatened and verbally abused by these selfish riders if we challenge them.

    Complaints I’ve made to the e-scooter rental company results in a template reply email which signs off by telling me to “have an amazing day” or to “scoot scoot!”


    Christina Young, Liverpool
    Agree (17) | Disagree (0)
    +17

    I completely take Sarah’s point, however I think a more accurate headline would be ‘blind people completely at the mercy of anti social road users’ or even ‘blind people completely at the mercy of people behaving in an anti social way’. The point’s that Sarah makes are valid, but surely apply to people using bicycles or even mobility scooters on pavements or dogs that are not on leads. Or what about anti social car owners parking all over pavements etc? As for scooters being dumped, I think this would be less likely if they were privately owned? I think the world just needs everyone to be a bit more considerate and thoughtful towards others….. Not sure that’s looking likely to happen any time soon though.
    I appreciate the concerns relating to the legalisation of e-scooters, but we have to think about how we wean people off this car dependent culture that we’ve created. There’s a possibility that e-scooters could play a role here, particularly for shorter journeys.


    Becky James, Bradford
    Agree (12) | Disagree (8)
    +4

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