On 25 August this year e-scooter rental firm Voi celebrated three years in business. Since the company launched in Stockholm, Sweden in 2018, it has created schemes in 70 cities and 11 countries, and its users have completed over 60 million trips.
We are a little behind some of our European neighbours in the UK. However, most people who live in urban areas will already have noticed a huge uptick in e-scooter use over the past year.
Unfortunately, with a rise in e-scooter journeys comes a rise in accidents. Insurer Admiral says that the number of e-scooter accidents reported by its customers in the first half of this year trebled compared to the same period in 2020. Research by dash cam company Nextbase predicts up to 200,000 e-scooter accidents in 2021 and says one in five riders will have an accident.
Many accidents are due to collisions with motor vehicles. However, the quality of road surfaces can also be a contributory factor. In June this year insurance company Zurich called for a change in the way that pothole funding from Central Government was distributed, claiming that no weighting was being given cycle paths and pavements, increasing risks to cyclists and e-scooter riders.
Poor road surfaces have already come under scrutiny following e-scooter fatalities. When TV presenter Emily Hartridge died in July 2019, after a collision with a lorry in south London, her boyfriend Jake Hazell told the Express newspaper: “The road had a massive part to play in Emily’s accident. The condition of the road was shocking. It wasn’t necessarily Emily’s, the scooter’s or the driver’s fault.”
In Mallorca, the family of real estate agent Marcos Blasco are making a claim against the city council in Portals Nous, after he hit a pothole in June this year, and was thrown from his e-scooter, suffering fatal head injuries. At that time helmets were advised but not mandatory in Mallorca – as they are in the UK now.
Currently the only legal way to ride e-scooters in the UK is through rental schemes in trial locations, where they can only be ridden on roads. Privately-owned scooters can only be driven on private land, with the landowner’s permission. Although e-scooters are technically subject to the same laws as motor vehicles – requiring insurance, tax, MOT and registration – the mechanisms aren’t in place to enable those things to happen, although rented scooters are insured, and you do need a license to drive them.
In countries where e-scooter use is established, the rules about where they can be ridden vary. In the UK, if their wider use does become legal, they are likely to be restricted to roads and cycle paths and banned from pavements.
London has already significantly increased its cycle lane capacity around the capital, with e-scooters as well as bikes in mind. Transport for London says that nearly 100km of new or upgraded cycle routes have been created since May 2020.
Several London boroughs have been hard at work making sure that the cycle lane surfaces are in the right condition to enable safe journeys. Thermal Road Repair units and crews have been working for some of these boroughs, fixing potholes, cracks and other defects in new and pop-up cycle lanes.
No doubt cycle lanes and e-scooter routes have been upgraded and repaired in the other trial locations too which include Bath, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Portsmouth and Southampton, West Midlands, Derby and Nottingham, and the West of England Combined Authority. However, elsewhere in the country, central Government decisions on e-scooters could unleash a swarm of them onto the road, potentially catching some road authorities out.
One thing’s for sure, the ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers are prepared for those accidents. Google ‘e-scooter pothole accident’ and you will find a whole army of them waiting to pounce.
Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. We invest significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve our existing ones.
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