Social & Social Media Secretary Ella Kipling lays out the environmental benefits and safety concerns of rental e-scooters in the debate of whether they should be banned

Images by Ernest Ojeh

Despite the ban against private e-scooter usage on public roads, trials of rental e-scooters have been introduced across the UK. In June 2021, electric scooters became available to hire in a small number of London boroughs, and these rental scooters are currently the only way to legally ride an e-scooter in public places in London. Helen Sharp, the leader of the TfL project, said:

‘We’re doing all we can to support London’s safe and sustainable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s clear that e-scooters could act as an innovative, greener alternative to car trips.’

It is true, the environmental benefits of the scooters cannot be ignored. One million e-scooter rides have taken place across the West of England since October last year. Voi Technology has estimated that the inclusion of their e-scooters has replaced 370,000 car trips, which has reduced over 200 tonnes of carbon emissions.

However, the safety elements of these e-scooters have been highly debated as many people have spoken out about the danger they pose to drivers, pedestrians, and other riders. The U.K.’s National Federation of the Blind has launched a campaign to stop rentable e-scooter trials until safety reviews have been completed, whilst also asking that private e-scooters remain illegal. The group’s Street Access Campaigns Coordinator Sarah Gayton said that the scooters have ‘taken over pavements’ and made towns and cities ‘no go zones’ for blind people. She said:

‘We know in Nottingham that people’s anxiety is a lot higher because of e-scooters, we know in Liverpool it’s been called a no-go area for blind and visually impaired people because of the rental e-scooters there that are riding over the pavements and people leaving e-scooters everywhere.’

The safety elements of these e-scooters have been highly debated

Reports also show that e-scooters are being used as vehicles to aid drug dealers and other criminals. Between July 1st, 2020, and April 30th, 2021, e-scooters were involved in 574 recorded crimes in London, according to the Met.

Safety for riders is also a concern. Helmets are only recommended and not required, so when the contraptions are moving at high speeds on public roads, one can only imagine the physical damage caused when accidents occur.

While it is illegal to drive an e-scooter under the influence of alcohol, there appears to be no way to monitor and prevent drunk individuals from using the scooters. Now that nightlife is beginning to go back to normal and clubs are opening up, it will be interesting to see how this has an effect on e-scooter related incidents. Hundreds of people will be leaving clubs and bars in the dark, pumped full of alcohol, and stepping onto e-scooters that are left parked around town.

The environmental impacts of e-scooters cannot be denied, but neither can the health and safety risks which the use of these scooters pose to riders, pedestrians, and other drivers on the road.

For more Redbrick Travel articles, check out the links below:

The E-Scooter: A More Sustainable Means of Travel?

Is Carbon Offsetting Your Flight Worthwhile?

Year Abroad Series: Expectations for ‘Post-Pandemic’ Year Abroad