E-Scooters: Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Risky Injury Machinery

We are truly living in the future. Parked on every corner around Bath are affordable, accessible, and more environmentally friendly forms of transportation. As part of The Future Transport Zones initiative, e-scooters have become a transport of choice around the city. It’s almost impossible not to see one hurtling past you on the already slightly precarious road crossings, shouting some profanity about your mother which you didn’t quite catch.

I’ll be the first to admit, those things are fun. E-scooters honestly make me feel like I’m in Back to the Future II (admittedly seven years late and they don’t hover), chasing some life-vest wearing punk down the road. I have friends who completely swear by them, and I absolutely understand the appeal; they are a student’s dream come true.

However, I think it’s important to remember what e-scooters are. Although personal e-scooter usage in the UK is a legislative backwater there have been numerous publications on them. According one by the House of Lords, e-scooters are technically motor vehicles meaning they need, “insurance; technical standards; payment of vehicle tax, licensing, and registration; driver testing and licensing; and the use of relevant safety equipment […] It is also illegal to use them in spaces set aside for pedestrians”[i]. I don’t know about you, but I am doubtful as to whether this is the case and whether anyone really would be arrested for lacking these under the Road Traffic Act. E-scooters are essentially road legal vehicles which can go up to 12.5 mph (their speed cap in Bath), are very manoeuvrable onto pavements, with little legislation surrounding them.

But that’s personal scooters, Voi (the provider of e-scooters to Bath) is under license for the city and therefore have a clearer responsibility regarding their legal usage. They check users have a driving license and that they are informed of requirements before they are allowed to use the service on their app. And to be fair, that’s pretty good going considering the scope of their operation. The quiz is easy to pass, but the rules are just as easily forgotten. Voi pushes for the use of helmets and helmets and hi-vis when using their scooters. Again, just speaking from personal experience here but my fluorescent wardrobe is somewhat lacking, and a helmet is not often a feature of my ‘phone-keys-wallet’ check. Voi misunderstands how people view their scooters (or at least, for the purposes of legal tick boxing): e-scooters are a quick and highly available way from A to B. By design, the e-scooter service lends itself to ad hoc travel. For example after a night out.

Now it goes without saying but do not use e-scooters while drunk. Much like the club hook-up, the day before essay and any trip to Milton Keynes – it is a stupid idea. But the walk home just seems so much more convenient when it’s on a magical moving board of light and wonder, doesn’t it? Students are one of the key audiences for Voi, and I am sorry to say but we are exactly the sort of people who are going to use them like that.

In 2021, there were 1,352 collisions involving e-scooters in the UK, resulting in 1,434 casualties. By policing area, Avon and Somerset accounted for 7% of these casualties, second only to the Metropolitan Police (36%)[ii]. This does include our larger sister city Bristol and it must also be considered that Avon and Somerset are one of only thirty trial areas for e-scooters. But increased presence also means an increased incident likelihood.

Which takes me to my final point, the extension of the service up to the university via Widcombe hill means that e-scooters are suddenly a really viable way of commuting to university. And although this article is sceptical, e-scooters are a brilliant emerging mode of transportation and if used responsibly then could be a total asset to students living in the BA1-2 postcodes. Widcombe is a steep hill though. The corners are sharp, the roads are cramped, and the views stunning (for those of you easily distracted by landscapes). Voi remains an excellent opportunity for us, but I implore you: plan your journey, wear safety kit (just think of how majestic your safety yellow vest would look blowing in the wind) and remain vigilant on the roads. 

May all your Hill Valley chase fantasies come to fruition.

[i] Brader, C and Haves, E and Collyer Merritt, E (2022) “E-scooters: The road ahead”, The House of Lords Library, https://lordslibrary.parliament.uk/e-scooters-the-road-ahead/#:~:text=Whilst%20it%20is%20legal%20to,land%20with%20the%20landowner’s%20permission. Accessed 8/10/2022

[ii] Department for Transport (updated 2022) “Reported road casualties Great Britain: e-Scooter factsheet 2021”, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/reported-road-casualties-great-britain-e-scooter-factsheet-2021/reported-road-casualties-great-britain-e-scooter-factsheet-2021

Accessed 8/10/2022

Vigar T (2022) “University of Bath students can now ride e-scooters to campus after trial extended”, Somerset Live, https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/local-news/university-bath-students-can-now-7672737?fbclid=IwAR0gKSNRhwGtMCkXuNTiA4yvyoOUXdSPrbWV5eodxJcJhIjmEE871i6I0e8,

Accessed 8/10/2022

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