Colin Brazier: 'We are sitting back as a society and watching the law around e-scooters being turned into an ass'

We can’t allow our streets to be turned into a campus experiment

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On a hot day like this, what could be nicer than sallying forth on an e-scooter. No helmet, no suffocating motorbike leathers, no fiddling with the car’s overwhelmed air conditioning. I could ride just outside the studio perhaps, here in Paddington, the canal-sides packed with pop-up bars and world cuisine. I could stop for a craft beer. No need to find a parking space, just perch the scooter next to the table, before heading home with the soft summer breeze playfully ruffling my shirt.

Well, that’s how it is….for some.

And people who live like that, in places like this, are often the ones calling the shots. The media folk, the local politicians, the academics. It’s no coincidence that Ireland is starting trials of E-scooters TODAY. Not on one of the sprawling council estates of Dublin, but on the city’s university campuses.

Because the thing about e-scooters is this. They are augmenters. If your life is good, they make it better. If life’s a struggle, they can make it worse.

I simplify, of course, but not too much. Last week it was reported that crimes committed using e-scooters had risen 50-fold… this year. The drug running, the robberies, the assaults – often to steal someone else’s e-scooter.

Not just the crime, the collisions and accidents too. Five deaths this year, a 16 year old killed on an e-scooter on Sunday, a three year old toddler left with life-changing injuries yesterday.

Where’s this stuff happening? It CAN happen here by the gentrified canal-side. Of course it can. It could happen on those utopian university campuses. But generally it’s not. When you see dashcam footage of young men riding e-scooters on motorways, on pavements….off their heads on drink and drugs, it’s usually not happening in places like this.

An e-scooter in Newcastle,Concerns have been raised about irresponsible e-scooter riding just a week after the pilot scheme was launched.
An e-scooter in Newcastle,Concerns have been raised about irresponsible e-scooter riding just a week after the pilot scheme was launched.

Last night I interviewed a woman who’d just handed a petition into Downing Street on behalf of the 360,000 Britons who are considered blind or partially-sighted. Her fury, her utter incomprehension, at what was being allowed to happen in our town centres was palpable. Some of them were, she said, now effectively no-go areas for people who struggle to see properly.

The big failing here; the jaw-dropping… don’t recognize the country I’m living in…. oversight of mind-numbing proportions is this…

We are sitting back as a society and watching the law being turned into an ass.

How else would you describe current government policy. Halford’s reported a 184 per cent increase in sales of e-scooters last year. And that was before the buying frenzy really took hold. I’ve just checked on Amazon. I can get a decent e-scooter delivered to me this week for about £400. No need for a license or insurance or road tax. Just a warning that it shouldn’t be used “in traffic”.

In traffic? It shouldn’t be used anywhere, other than private land. Let me repeat that. If you buy an e-scooter, it can ONLY be used legally on your land. For most of us that’s the path from the front door to the front gate, assuming you live in a house that is. No riding on pavements, cycle lanes or public roads. And definitely not motorways.

There is a wilful confusion at work. And it’s one the authorities almost seem complicit in. The confusion is this. Some e-scooters can be used beyond the confines of your garden or private driveway. These are the ones you HIRE. And there’s a lot of rental going on. More than 30 rental trials in England alone. This has muddied the waters. How do you know if the e-scooter weaving between the traffic is rented or purchased? You don’t. And so we tolerate a flouting of the law-of-the-land on an industrial scale.

Voi rental e-scooters lined up near to the Guildhall in Portsmouth.
Voi rental e-scooters lined up near to the Guildhall in Portsmouth.

The genie has been allowed out of the bottle. But we don’t need to start drafting new laws to restore some order to our streets. Existing legislation allows police to hand out a £300 fine. They can seize your scooter and, assuming you have a license, put six points on it.

It isn’t too late to clamp down on this. In my opinion the government should give serious consideration to banning all e-scooters sales. The rental schemes should be allowed to carry on, pending results of the trials. Rental has the benefit of us knowing the scooters are speed limited, with lights and a number plate.

E-scooters have a lot going for them, especially on lovely evenings like this. But we can’t allow our streets to be turned into a campus experiment, our pavements into a display of Brownian Motion, our roads into death traps.