This week Guide Dogs was invited to give evidence to the Transport Select Committee.
Last month, the Committee re-opened its inquiry into e-scooters to catch up on findings from ongoing trials and the progress that has been made in assessing their safety, impact on congestion and the experience of pedestrians.
Clive Wood, Lead Regional Policy and Campaign Manager at Guide Dogs spoke to the Committee comprising of cross-party MPs about the concerns e-scooters present to visually impaired people.
Guide Dogs has campaigned on the issue of e-scooters, highlighting how their silent nature makes them hard to detect and avoid for visually impaired people.
Some rental e-scooter operators are researching the use of different sounds to combat the issue.
Speaking to MPs, Clive Wood said we need to see this research being led by the Department for Transport. He told the Transport Select Committee: “We need a standard that is uniform, we cannot have different sounds. I want to be able to go to any part of the country and if I hear a specific sound, I know that it is an e-scooter."
The Transport Select Committee hearing comes after the Department for Transport published the results of a survey of 3,600 residents in 10 areas of England hosting trials of e-scooter rental schemes.
Some 93% of respondents reported seeing at least one form of anti-social behaviour by users of either rental or private e-scooters, with the most common issue being people riding on pavements.
Clive went on to say: “We can’t have a situation where people do not feel confident they can travel independently on a footpath. A pavement is there for me and other blind or partially sighted people so that we can feel safe.
“At the moment, that isn’t happening with the number of e-scooters being used irresponsibly on pavements. The power of an e-scooter means you can go to an extreme speed very quickly in comparison to e-bikes or normal bikes. They’re heavy and at the moment a lot of the e-scooters don’t have a sound.
“So, I think it is about trying to look at how we can prevent anti-social e-scooter use through regulation and legislation in terms of pavement use, but also in other areas as well, so shared space areas for example. It is a legitimate and actual concern to blind or partially sighted people and other disabled people and other pedestrians as well.”
“It is hard to avoid e-scooters when they come up behind you and you cannot hear them. The first time I was hit by an e-scooter was just outside my house in May 2021, when two young people riding the same e-scooter hit me causing me to fall over into my guide dog Inca. They just got up and just rode away but I was left bruised, and my guide dog Inca pulled a muscle in her leg, putting her out of action for six weeks and me without my guide dog. Two months later I tripped over an e-scooter left on the pavement and fractured my foot. What people do not realise is when something like this happens, that is my complete independence gone.”
Elaine Maries, guide dog owner
In 2021, Guide Dogs carried out the first crash testing of an e-scooter in the UK and found that an e-scooter colliding with a pedestrian at 15.5mph could cause fatal injury.
The independent study by leading crash test provider UTAC, commissioned by Guide Dogs, found that the initial impact could cause moderate injury such as lacerations, or major bruising. However, if the pedestrian was to hit their head on the floor as a result of the collision, the injuries sustained are highly likely to be fatal.
The Department for Transport figures show one pedestrian was killed and 62 were seriously injured in collisions with e-scooters in Britain during the 12 months to the end of June 2022. While a further 180 people suffered minor injuries and 11 e-scooter users died in crashes over the same period.
Private e-scooters cannot be legally used on roads or pavements in the UK but have become a common sight. Trials of rental e-scooters on roads in dozens of towns and cities across England have been extended until May 2024.
A new Government-commissioned report has revealed the extent of anti-social e-scooter riding in England.
Guide Dogs responds to the Government's decision to extend e-scooter trials, despite spike in pedestrian injuries.