Silent e-scooters will be fitted with fake noises to warn pedestrians they are coming as trials across the UK are plagued by riders mounting pavements.
Experts will be setting up focus groups with local communities from next year to work out what noise will be most effective to warn pedestrians and other road users that the scooters are approaching.
Up to 36 towns and cities in England have opted into a 12-month Department for Transport scheme, but concerns over riders mounting pavements saw a pilot paused after just five days in Coventry, while another trial was pulled before it even got started in Hartlepool.
TV presenter Emily Hartridge, 35, and charity fundraiser Barrie Howes, 57, both died while riding their e-scooters in separate incidents, while passers-by have also been hit by the speeding vehicles, leaving at least one woman with serious injuries.
Charities for the blind have raised their own concerns over the silent threat scooters pose to pedestrians, warning they are ‘uncontrollable’.
Dozens of towns and cities, including Birmingham and York, are signing up for e-scooter schemes, but concerns over safety have sparked German-based Tier Mobility to install a noise on the silent vehicles to alert pedestrians
TV presenter and Youtuber Emily Hartridge was killed in July last year after crashing her e-scooter into a lorry in Battersea. Campaigners against the silent vehicles have warned they are ‘uncontrollable’
In July a 68-year-old woman in Dorset was left with serious injuries after she was hit head-on by an e-scooter while jogging along the seafront.
Despite there being a 10mph limit along the promenade, witnesses told the Bournemouth Echo the rider was going ‘far too quickly,’ and failed to stop.
Last month York City Council announced it was working with Tier Mobility to deploy 50 e-scooters in the city – with the potential for 600 to be up and running by May next year.
According to The Times, Tier Mobility has plans to install a fake noise into scooters being deployed in the city.
The German company said it plans to run focus groups locally next year to discuss what noise the alert should make and how it will work.
Fred Jones, Tier’s UK general manager, told the paper: ‘E-scooters offer lots of benefits to UK cities but they must be introduced in a considered way, working in harmony with local communities and accounting for the concerns of people with visual impairment.’
Sarah Gayton, shared space co-ordinator at the National Federation of the Blind of the UK, responded: ‘Adding a noise will not ensure the safety of pedestrians. It is the uncontrollable behaviour of the e-scooter riders and the serious limitations of the e-scooter technology which are at the heart of the problem.’
Barrie Howes was killed in a freak accident as he travelled home from work after heeding the Government’s call to avoid public transport in the early days of the pandemic
YouTube star Emily Hartridge, 35, lost her life in a collision with a lorry as she circled the roundabout while riding an e-scooter bought for her by her boyfriend Jacob Hazell, 28, as a birthday present less than a week before
The Department for Transport launched a 12-month scheme at the start of July which would make it legal to ride e-scooters on roads – they would, however, need to be rented and would be capped at 15.5mph.
But videos shared online appear to show how the speed restrictions can be removed with just a few taps and drivers can reach speeds of up to 40mph.
In one video seen by the Mail on Sunday, Duncan Smith reveals how to ‘hack’ the top speeds for the Xiaomi M365 scooter, another popular model available for £469 in Halfords.
‘By unlocking the scooter, by which I mean the speed limit that’s on it, you can go a little bit faster. I say a little bit faster but I mean this scooter will go like a rocket,’ he says.
TV presenter and YouTube star Emily Hartridge, 35, is believed to have been the first e-scooter rider to die on a British road.
The 35-year-old was killed in a collision with a lorry in July last year.
In September a coroner ruled she had been riding her e-scooter too fast, with an under-inflated tyre.
The inquest, held at Westminster Coroner’s Court, heard that Emily, of Hambledon, Hampshire, died instantly of her injuries following the collision in Batttersea, South-West London.
A coroner said at Ms Hartridge’s inquest: ‘The scooter was being unsuitably driven, too fast and with an under inflated tyre and this caused the loss of control and her death’
Charity fundraiser Barrie Howes, 57, died earlier this year after falling off his e-scooter in Chatham, Kent
An inquest heard Mr Howes lost control as he travelled down Brompton Hill, a steep residential road.
He flew off and, despite wearing a helmet, was found by a passer-by suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
Tees Valley Combined Authorities joined the scheme, starting with 50 vehicles in Middlesborough.
It had planned to expand to Hartlepool, but a series of complaints led to the scheme being pulled from the town in September.
Speaking at the time, Hartlepool’s MP Mike Hill said e-scooters were ‘as useful as a chocolate fireguard’.
Tees Valley Combined Authorities launched the Government-backed initiative to boost the number of e-scooters on Britain’s roads, by starting with 50 vehicles in Middlesborough. The local authority scrapped plans to expand the pilot to Hartlepool after the scheme caused complaints
Where can I ride an e-scooter? It’s okay on the roads… but not on the pavements
Riding rental e-scooters on the roads and cycle paths became legal on July 4.
However, riding these scooters on pavements will remain illegal and will only be allowed in pre-approved locations where the hiring scheme is taking place.
It will still be illegal to ride privately-owned electric scooters on the pavement, roads and cycle paths.
You can only ride your own e-scooter on private land, with permission from the person who owns the land.
You must have a driving licence or a provisional driving licence and be at least 16 years old to hire an electric scooter.
They will be limited to a maximum speed of 15.5mph and it’s recommended that riders wear a helmet, though it isn’t mandatory.
Privately-owned e-scooters cannot be legally ridden on the roads because they don’t always have visible rear red lights, number plates or signally ability.
The Labour MP told The Independent: ‘Using scooters to get people off buses as a way of beating either climate change or coronavirus is farcical. It is fiddling while Rome burns. Whatever the question, e-scooters in Hartlepool are not the answer.’
Coventry signed up to the scheme, but paused the trial after just five days amid concerns over safety.
Pedestrians quickly flocked to Facebook to talk about near misses with the two-wheeled vehicles.
One said she had been almost ‘knocked over by about four of these in the space of five minutes on Friday night,’ The Times reports.
Others complained about reckless riders who were mounting pavements in the city centre.
A spokesman for the council said at the time: ‘The initial take-up has been encouraging but we need to ensure that the safety of all people using the city centre is protected and that the e-scooters are used in the proper way, hence our decision to pause the pilot until systems are improved.’
The scheme remains paused in Coventry, while Birmingham and Milton Keynes have continued their own trials.
One tour guide in Birmingham warned members of the public ‘are going to get killed,’ by the silent scooters.
Jonathan Berg, who runs Positively Birmingham walking tours, said he was horrified when his young female assistant guide was ‘toppled like a tree from behind’.
The former medical professor said: ‘Luckily this scooter was not going fast.
‘We had several near-misses from very fast machines – people are going to get killed if we do not police this urgently.’