Deaf-blind man fears e-scooters trial will 'stop me leaving the house'

In June e-scooter firm Lime announced a year-long trial in partnership with TfL

In June e-scooter firm Lime announced a year-long trial in partnership with TfL - Credit: Anthony Upton/PA

A Kentish Town man who is blind and deaf says he is terrified about the coming e-scooter trial in Camden. 

Camden Council ran a public consultation earlier in the summer, before announcing this month it would join the trial, which will see Lime, Dott and Tier e-scooters allowed on the borough streets by October.

The trial has been going on in other boroughs, with Transport for London's backing, since June – and will last until at least June 2022.

The resident, who did not want to be named, told the Ham&High: "I'm afraid I will be unable to go out of the house on my own. I have already had a near-miss. 

"I am petrified of these e-scooters, particularly if people use them on the pavements. This is dangerous and it shouldn't be allowed." 

He said e-scooters also risk becoming a trip hazard.

E-scooters parked in Ordnance Hill, St John's Wood. The trial is already ongoing in Westminster

E-scooters parked in Ordnance Hill, St John's Wood. The trial is already ongoing in Westminster - Credit: Jon Sebire

The near-miss involved a privately-owned and illegally operated e-scooter, and he said: "We were walking around the back streets in Kentish Town with my guide, who is sighted. Then this scooter comes out of nowhere and almost collided with my cane. It could have been a terrible incident."

Most Read

He added: "I am scared enough as it is, I'm going to be terrified in September. The council should be asking: 'Why are we rushing this?'" 

He said that while he is particularly concerned by e-scooters, there is a wider issue – and that it is not just people with disabilities who are at risk. 

Sarah Gayton, the National Federation for the Blind's street access campaigns co-ordinator, said: "There are very serious safety concerns associated with the rentable e-scooters which simply have not been resolved in other boroughs."

She said people are able to hand scooters to others and bypass the need to take safety training or have their ID held. She also said that while the e-scooters are not allowed on pavements, this rule is often ignored. 

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) was among the groups to respond to Camden's consultation. It gave "strong support" to Camden's suggestion of using designated bays for e-scooter parking and "geo-fencing" e-scooters to prevent their use in pedestrian areas.

In its comment, the RNIB wrote: "E-scooters must not be allowed on pavements or in pedestrianised areas.

"However, rules alone are not enough to prevent this from happening, as pavement cycling, and e-scooter use on pavements in and out of current trial areas demonstrates.

"Enforcement mechanisms to ensure pavement riding does not happen are essential."

In response, Camden said e-scooters would have bells and lights, and that pavement-riding would be punishable with a fixed penalty notice and a £50 fine. 

During the consultation, concerns were raised in Hampstead that encouraging e-scooter use could lead to crime or accidents. The town hall thinks it will help encourage active travel and cut car traffic.

Cllr Adam Harrison, the borough's environment chief, said: "When we were considering whether to take part in TfL’s London-wide trial, we made the safety of pedestrians and e-scooter users a priority."

He said there are also "several safety measures" in place, including speed limits, mandating the scooters are only usable on roads, and "no-go" and "go-slow" zones programmed by GPS to protect people in parks and open spaces. He said the scooters would have to be left in designated areas.

Cllr Harrison said the town hall would be "closely monitoring" the impact of the trial."

The use of non-rental e-scooters remains illegal.

Metropolitan Police officers in Islington, London, talk to people riding e-scooters to educate them

A Metropolitan Police officer talking to a rider in 2019 about the risks associated with the use of e-scooters, which are currently illegal to use on the public highways including pavements. - Credit: PA/Yui Mok

Alan Clarke, a policy director for Lime, said: "“We know that for our service to deliver a long term sustainable transport solution for London, it needs to be able to work for everyone, which is why we continue to invest in industry leading software and hardware safeguards.

"We have a strong track record of engaging with disability groups to help inform the way in which we run our schemes, including on key issues like parking and rider education."

He said the e-scooters included technology to prevent pavement-riding. 

Dott UK general manager Duncan Robertson said: "Safety is non-negotiable for riders and non-riders alike and Dott has been dedicated to a responsible transport approach from the very beginning."

He said the rental e-scooters have technology including sound-detection to keep riders and pedestrians safe. Dott launched a "pavement detection technology" trial this summer. 

Fred Jones, a vice-president at Tier, said: “Safety for all is TIER’s priority. We continue to listen carefully to the concerns of the deaf and visually impaired and strive to maintain or commitment to lead and shape industry standards." He said Tier was working closely with its "UK Safety Board" on the issue.