E-scooters: a green step forward or a ‘menace’ on streets and pavements?

Debate as they are blamed for causing injuries and encouraging anti-social behaviour

Friday, 1st July — By Anna Lamche

Patryk Radek

Patryk Radek is a fan of e-scooters and hopes a form of licensed regulation is the way forward

E-SCOOTERS may be banned on public transport, blamed with anti-social behaviour – and currently illegal to use in public spaces – but according to one business owner this bad reputation is undeserved.

Patryk Radek, from Holloway, recently opened the E-Scooter Clinic in Caledonian Road and is hoping to prove that well-regulated and maintained e-scooters are environmentally friendly, quick and easy, and spell the beginning of a micro-mobility revolution.

Currently, only hire e-scooters being trialled in London are supposed to be allowed.

This has led to legal grey areas with many people owning their own e-scooters but not being stopped by police for riding them.

Mr Radek, who worked in hospitality before starting his business, serves customers coffee while they drop by to get their e-scooters fixed, also selling new and refurbished e-scooters.

It is estimated there are between 750,000 and a million private e-scooters currently in use across the UK. In the past few years, they have been blamed for causing injuries and encouraging anti-social behaviour.

And recently, videos of e-scooters exploding on crowded trains have gone viral on social media – leading to them being banned from all TfL services.

According to Mr Radek, these problems could be solved if the e-scooter market was legalised and regulated.

In a well-regulated environment, “cheap” e-scooters equipped with low-quality, explosion-prone batteries would not be allowed in the UK, he argues.

While ministers have long promised to “fast track” e-scooter legislation, Mr Radek said, “the government isn’t really following what they say”.

Sarah Gayton has warned that people are ending up in hospital

He would like to see the UK follow Germany’s example, where every e-scooter entering the country must pass a safety check.

As with cars, every e-scooter rider must have insurance, and every machine is given a registration plate.

“It’s amazing – I wish the UK government would introduce something like that,” Mr Radek said of Germany’s system.

An avid e-scooter rider himself, Mr Radek’s business began when he realised how difficult they were to repair even when they only had the simplest of faults.

He taught himself to fix and modify them and quickly found himself with a steady stream of customers also in need of scooter repairs.

Mr Radek said his business plays a key role in keeping people safe.

“If you’ve got someone driving without breaks, or on a scooter that’s electronically not safe – that can cause injuries.”

E-scooters have also been in the firing line for encouraging anti-social behaviour, with riders knocking people over or being involved in robberies or drug dealing.

“I don’t think the problem here is the scooter,” Mr Radek said. “It’s the mindset of the user – it could just as well be an e-bike, or it could be running.”

He added: “Because e-scooters are illegal, they attract certain kinds of people. I would say the solution in this case is: legalise it, put licence plates on it.”

He sees e-scooters as the answer – particularly for those less able to walk and cycle – as councils close roads in pursuit of “liveable streets”.

But others are not so sure. Sarah Gayton, from of the National Federation of the Blind UK, said e-scooters are a “menace” to all people, both on the street and at home.

“For me, the fundamental design of the e-scooter is inherently unsafe,” she said. “Even if the market was regulated, there are so many Facebook groups telling people how to modify them – they’re messing around with batteries and controls, and that can make them unstable.”

Ms Gayton, who works with blind residents in Islington to improve their access to the street, is concerned by recent reports of scooter batteries exploding, leading to fires on public transport and in homes.

And she is not convinced safety checks would work to stem the flow of “dodgy” scooters to the market.

She added: “Everyone knows about the chaos at the ports – how are you going to inspect every container of scooters? It’s easy to speak safety but the reality in hospitals is a completely different thing. It’s easy to say we’ll get all these checks done, but people are falling off them and getting seriously hurt with life-changing injuries.”

According to Ms Gayton, even riders of legal rental e-scooters can behave in an anti-social or dangerous way.

“It’s rubbish to say everyone will become responsible because they’ll be legal – that’s not what the e-scooter rental trials have shown,” she said.

“I have seen so many young people riding [rental e-scooters] double, riding on pavements, riding through red lights.”

And she added: “They should not be legalised. Police need to get involved, and the [rental e-scooter] trials have gone on long enough.”

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