Age UK London hosts the London Age-friendly Transport group, which is a working group of the London Age-friendly Forum. We meet regularly to discuss what more can be done to make travelling in London more age-friendly. At our last meeting we discussed e-scooters.
The use of e-scooters, particularly the safety of pedestrians and riders, has been a concern to many older Londoners in recent years. This June saw the start of a 12-month trial for an e-scooter rental scheme in London. By early August the scheme was running in eight boroughs and the City of London (Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Richmond, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, and Westminster. This is the first time e-scooter use on London’s streets has been legal (outside of the trial the use of privately owned e-scooters remains illegal on both roads and pavements).
Alex Berwin is the Regional City Manager for TIER mobility. TIER are one of three operators participating in the rental scheme. We were very grateful to Alex for attending a recent Age-friendly transport meeting to talk about what TIER is doing to ensure the safety of e-scooter users and pedestrians and to take questions from members of the group.
How will TIER ensure e-scooter riders do not go faster than the suggested top speed and in what circumstances will the maximum speed be reduced? (Brenda, Westminster)
All e-scooters in the London e-scooter trial are capped at 12.5 miles-per-hour (mph). We have also capped speeds for our e-scooter trial in York at this level, which is below the national government regulation of 15.5mph and was a recommendation in our recent UK Safety Board report. We work closely with the participating London Boroughs to identify and geo-fence ‘go-slow zones’ where the capped speed comes down to 8mph. Go-slow zones can be in areas with shared pedestrian spaces or near to locations such as hospitals or schools. To encourage safe riding and allow customers to acclimatise to using an e-scooter for the first time, our customers must be in “beginner mode” for their first ride, which automatically reduces their speed for the entire journey.
To prevent tampering of our e-scooters we inspect our fleet daily, and all our vehicles are purpose-built for public use with integrated cables and seamless screws. Our e-scooters also have in-built alert systems which inform us immediately if someone is attempting to tamper with it.
Do you need to show proof of age to hire an e-scooter as part of the scheme? (Brenda, Westminster)
Riders must be over the age of 18, they need to have either a full or provisional driving licence to register and the registration process includes ID verification. On setting up your account you must also confirm that you are above 18. If we discover that a user is underage or an account holder has allowed somebody else to use their account they will be banned from using the service.
Are the awareness raising and education events you are doing going to be compulsory for school pupils? (Brenda, Westminster)
To use a rental e-scooter you must be aged 18 or over, and so our events are targeted at adults.
Safety is our number one priority and we expect all our customers to know the rules of the road. We also want all our customers to feel safe and confident when using our services. That’s why we have partnered with the cycle safety charity Bikeworks to design and run free e-scooter safety training sessions that we are rolling out across London. These sessions are taking place on weekends throughout August and September in different locations across the city, providing an opportunity for potential users to build confidence using an e-scooter before they take their first journey on their own. We are keen for as many people as possible to sign-up to these sessions and anyone can do so using our booking form here. In completing a training session users will also receive free rides with TIER for their next journey.
Will the data you collect about users of the scheme show the average age profile of riders? (Charlie, Croydon)
At the end of every ride there is a short survey, which includes a question about age. The responses to this survey are captured by the Department for Transport as part of the UK-wide e-scooter trials to inform their policymaking work, and they will be releasing their findings from the surveys in October. Currently, e-scooters mainly attract younger age groups but we are keen to encourage people of all ages to consider using e-scooters, especially in place of driving a private car or taking a taxi.
I have been hit and knocked to the ground by a private e-scooter ridden by a young teenager. How would you deal with a similar case happening if it were to involve one of your e-scooters? What are TfL and the police doing about such incidents? (Charlie, Croydon)
We are so sorry to hear about your experience, Charlie. We work in close collaboration with Transport for London (TfL) and the Metropolitan Police and alert them immediately should an incident take place on a TIER e-scooter. Should a similar incident involve a TIER e-scooter, alongside calling the emergency services, we ask that this is reported to our Customer Care team (by phone on 080 8164 9486) or the TfL Customer Care team (on 0343 222 1234) so we can investigate immediately and if necessary, issue a warning or ban to the rider involved. Because we are tracking our scooters at all times and require riders to sign up before using them, we would have detailed information around the incident to share with authorities if needed. We can also share that we have not experienced an incident like this to date on our services in London or York.
Will there by guidance for riders about avoiding certain roads such as those that are very narrow, near a school or see heavy traffic? (Charlie, Croydon)
We work very closely with the participating London Boroughs to define where e-scooters should not be ridden, using gps technology to define areas as ‘no-go’ so the e-scooter will automatically come to a steady halt if it is ridden somewhere into one of these zones. Alongside ‘go-slow’ areas where the e-scooter speed will be capped at 8mph, these are often areas where cycles, scooters and pedestrians are allowed.
The digital maps in our app makes it clear to riders where these areas are so our riders know where they can and cannot go in advance. We have also partnered with the navigation app Beeline, which suggests safer routes to take if you are cycling or on an e-scooter, away from busy roads and those key locations such as schools and hospitals which could be busy.
If an accident involving a pedestrian takes places are you aware of who was using the e-scooter at that time? – How does the insurance work if an accident takes place? (Alan)
Our technology ensures we are aware of where our e-scooters are and who is riding them at all times and our insurance includes personal liability and policy coverage which extends to third parties, such as a pedestrian involved in a collision. All incidents such as this should be reported to our Customer Care team, including the time, date and location where possible, to ensure we can identify the rider and take necessary action. Our customer care number (080 8164 9486) is on all of our e-scooters.
Any legislation must provide for mandatory license plates/identifying numbers on all e-scooters (private use or hire scheme). Do you agree? (Fay, Westminster)
Absolutely, we agree that all e-scooters should have an ID plate. Our e-scooters have these on the back and in several other locations across the vehicle to make it as easy to identify and read as possible. We worked with Sight Loss Councils on our design to ensure licence plates are as visible as possible. All our licence plates now have black text on a yellow background to improve their visibility.
Do you agree that silent e-scooters are a concern especially in cases when ridden on a pavement? (Fay, Westminster)
We certainly understand this concern. We were the first e-scooter operator to commit to adding a sound on to our e-scooters. This is a key priority for us, however it must be done carefully to ensure it is the right solution. We are continuing to work with sound engineers and academic researchers, as well as with organisations representing blind and partially sighted people, neuro-diversity and those with hearing loss, to develop the right solution for all pedestrians. This is not something that we want to rush and will be undertaking comprehensive testing in a controlled environment before delivering a solution onto streets to ensure we have the right sound that delivers on the safety outcomes intended.
Do you agree that cycle lanes are the safest place to use an e-scooter and why are you not calling for e-scooters to be confined to cycle lanes? (Jay, Croydon)
Yes. We want our riders to use cycle lanes as much as possible and wherever a cycling lane is available we encourage our riders to use them, both in our safety training and our in-app navigation. One of the biggest causes for pavement riding that we see is from people feeling unsafe riding on the roads. As part of the London e-scooter trial, we will be conducting research to support TfL and participating Boroughs to understand where better cycling infrastructure could improve safety for users of micro-mobility and, in turn, prevent unsafe riding behaviour. We look forward to being able to share these findings as the trial progresses.
What are you doing to prevent riders from abandoning e-scooters in the middle of the pavement where they are a hazard for many pedestrians and what action will be taken against any users responsible? (Gwynneth)
Using our unique and accurate camera-positioning parking technology, TIER customers are only able to end their rides if parked in an allocated bay, which are all clearly marked on the ground and in our app. However, on the rare occasion a TIER e-scooter is found to be misparked, our 24/7 team of on-street Rangers regularly patrol all bay locations and ensure vehicles are parked correctly and neatly. Members of the public are also able to report any misparked TIER e-scooters directly via a QR code clearly displayed on our vehicles or via our Customer Care team.