After two previous extensions, Canterbury’s e-scooter trial is to come to an end in November. Kent County Council (KCC) explained it had decided to truncate the trial “before someone was seriously hurt” – even though there has been only one recorded collision since it began in November 2020.
E-scooters are set to be legalised in the UK with the creation of new low-speed, zero-emission vehicle category. That decision was taken based on evidence gleaned from the various e-scooter share schemes that have been in operation up and down the country since they were first authorised in July 2020.
Kent Live reports that the Department for Transport had proposed a third extension of the Canterbury scheme, which is being run by Bird. However, this was rejected by KCC, seemingly in large part because of a recent collision involving an 80-year-old woman who suffered a broken wrist, cracked jaw and broken cheekbone after she was struck by a Bird e-scooter that was being ridden on a pavement.
A Bird spokesperson said the young man riding the scooter was immediately identified and blocked from using the service.
However, the councillor overseeing the trial, David Brazier, concluded the trial should be first significantly reduced and then closed altogether at the end of November.
“You cannot legislate against people who will agree to use something in a certain way and then suit themselves,” he said.
"I tended to favour the trial going on, but it was quite obvious now accidents could have been worse than they were.
"As we were nearing the end of the trial, I decided to truncate it before someone was seriously hurt. Recently an elderly lady was quite seriously injured by one being ridden on a pedestrian area which was not allowed.”
According to KCC itself, the July crash was the only one recorded in 67,000 rides.
A Bird spokesperson commented: "We are clearly very disappointed with this decision. At Bird we pride ourselves on always being at the forefront of enhanced safety and innovation whether that be through our industry-leading vehicles and technology, safety events and parking patrols organised in close collaboration with the city, the police and our partners.
"Out of the almost 67,000 rides completed since we launched in 2020, 99.999% have been without collision and one in five eligible Canterbury riders have used our vehicles, opting for sustainable travel and ditching petrol-powered trips. We will continue to provide our eco-friendly and convenient vehicles for Canterbury residents until the end of November.”
Commenting on the abandonment of the trial, a KCC spokesperson said: "KCC and our operating partner, Bird, are continuing to collect valuable data through the Canterbury electric scooter trial to share with the Department for Transport.
“In recent months Bird, working to deliver this trial for KCC, has introduced enhanced safety measures including a reduction of the electric scooter speeds from 15mph to 12mph. Additionally, they increased ‘Birdwatchers’ to patrol the city for pavement riding and changed their rider policy to introduce an immediate ban for any misdemeanour."
“KCC has decided to gradually reduce the number of vehicles in the trial, as well as the areas in which they operate, ahead of the trial finishing in Kent at the end of November."
Last week Birmingham extended its e-scooter trial until May 2024. A council report highlighted how relatively few injuries had been sustained over the course of over a million rides.