Christine Tongue: scooters – the good, the bad and the dangerous

Christine Tongue

Scooters are everywhere. The small children in Thanet are getting lots of healthy exercise scooting up and down the seafront.

Since my legs stopped working my life has been transformed by using a mobility scooter.

Unfortunately, my friend Anne’s (not her real name) life has also been transformed by a different kind of scooter – an e-scooter. It very nearly took her life when it zoomed out of the darkness knocked her to the ground while scooter and rider landed on top of her.

Most scooter accidents involve only the rider – you’re very vulnerable with no helmet and only a narrow board in heavy traffic. But there have been horrific stories around the country. A pensioner was killed by a scooter as she stepped onto the pavement from behind a parked van. The fourteen year old rider, doing around 20 mph didn’t see her and she wasn’t expecting a fast vehicle on the pavement. She died in hospital later of her injuries. The contrite rider had called an ambulance and was devastated by what he’d done. Too late

Another story – scooter at night, elderly pedestrian. Serious encounter. He was only saved from head injury by his rucksack but he was bruised all over and his arm was so badly broken it had to be pinned together in three places. The rider had no helmet or lights or insurance, or registration number and must have been doing well over ten miles an hour on the pavement  – lucky he went into a pedestrian who softened his fall and not a lamppost.

Most e-scooter accidents damage the rider but a huge number are not recorded in official road accident figures. This is calculated by comparing hospital records with accident records, according to a parliamentary report (link below): “hospital data is already showing worrying trends in injuries to the head, face and spine from scooter accidents.”

My scooter only does the equivalent of a fast walk (which I will never do again!), about four miles an hour maximum, but I usually go much slower. My scooter is only welcome on the road when the pavement is not available. I am the equivalent of a pedestrian or a pushchair – think of it as a granny pram.

I have insurance to cover rescuing me if I break down – important because I can’t just walk instead – theft, and third party – in case I run into someone.

It’s not clear what the rules are with e-scooters. They can go at much faster speeds than mine, usual top speed 25 mph, and can be tweaked to go really fast – believe me, I’m tempted…..

There are estimated to be nearly one million e-scooters in the UK now and they were responsible for at least 12 deaths in 2022 alone and thousands of injuries.

E-scooters can only be used under very restricted circumstances – and hard to understand! You can own one but not use it anywhere publicly, only on private land. Or can you? You probably need a diving license. In some cities you can still rent them and that seems to be OK but …..

You know what, I don’t care! I want them banned. They’re dangerous, unnecessary, a stupid use of technology. Toys for healthy adults who could be walking or cycling (with a helmet and lights etc), or just kick scooting like most of Thanet’s small children. Why would anyone want to stand on a narrow plank and do 40mph through heavy traffic? Think of the wonderful things that could be made instead. Wheelchairs that hover, robots to clean your floor and walk your dog, self making beds…. We’ll all have our list but let’s just eliminate these ridiculous machines first!

The day after my friend Anne’s mishap, I was overtaken by a young man zooming along on the pavement, with a toddler standing on the footplate in front of him. No helmets, no horn. Enormous fun and desperately dangerous!

Help me get them banned!

https://www.pacts.org.uk/comparing-police-and-hospital-e-scooter-casualty-datasets/

58 Comments

  1. “You probably need a diving license”?

    Seriously, a sensible post that I’m in total agreement with. Only problem is, how do you “ban” them when there are so many out there, and the police seem happy to just drive past them?

  2. It’s very clear what the law is in regards to e-scooters. It is illegal for them to be driven on public highways or footpaths at the present time. Trials in cities required insurance and a full or provisional licence. Just a shame our police fail to enforce the law.

  3. Totally agree. Lets get some laws in place to protect our children and unaware adults, who don’t seem to understand the danger they are putting their lives in.
    How do we start a petition?

    On second thoughts, why doesn’t Miss Dawes concentrate on this issues instead? A better use of her time, and her sponsors finances. Something worthwhile that could save lives.

  4. Correction…not a single person has been injured or killed by an e scooter. Some have been killed or injured by irresponsible people and these people will be irresponsible on anything. I was walked into twice this morning by pedestrians staring at their phones oblivious…..

    • You are correct there will always be irresponsible people, but does that mean we do nothing? You can’t ban irresponsible people but you can move out of the way of them if they are walking. The same is not true of E. Scooters. We have a duty to keep all people safe, even the irresponsible ones.

    • That’s a similar argument to saying that guns and knives don’t kill. Sadly, not everyone is as perfect as you and I.

    • Lol! are you really using the same argument that MAGA hat wearing gun lobbyists in the states use to support the idea that guns aren’t dangerous? Barista I think you just shot yourself in the foot 🤣🤣🤣

    • Might as well let everybody have guns like the US then-since guns & bullets don’t kill people. Because that has gone really well over the Atlantic Ocean hasn’t it?

      I have yet to see anybody on one of these things that is forty plus & driving it like a lunatic-only seen a couple in that age group & they drive very sensibly.

      As you would expect it is overwhelmingly boy racer teens & up to mid twenties. There are also some who are way too old to be doing this stuff-like the idiot motorbike riders with their noisy engines with no silencers & the hoons in their cars with blaring ‘music’ roaring around.

  5. As Steve says it is very clear, they are illegal. We don’t need any more laws, we just need the police to be less selective about which laws they enforce. These scooters are involved in crashes, not accidents.

  6. Disability scooters are a nuisance too..
    They think they have right of way on pavements and most don’t stop to let you through.
    Get them on the road and off the pavements that are for Predestions, pushchairs and wheelchairs.

    Same as always the elderly think they’re above everyone else and are the rudest.

    Oh and yes ban, burn those poxy e-scooters e-bike things that have become the desired transport for drug dealers.

      • Doris,
        Scott will be old one day – if he’s lucky- and will then understand why the elderly need consideration by the fitter members of society. It’s called empathy and understanding, something in which he appears to be sadly lacking.
        He will grow up at some point in his life, hopefully.

      • But who has the right or way, a pedestrian on a footpath, or a mobility scooter on a footpath. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but footpaths were originally made for pedestrians.

          • Neither has ‘the right of way’.
            Use common sense for heaven’s sake or is that too much to ask of many Thanetonians?
            I have to use a walking stick and I get far more trouble from fit and able other pedestrians (especially young women in a small gaggle) expecting me to move out of their way than I ever do from mobility scooter users

          • Did you bother reading the link?

            Quote: “Pedestrians have right of way. If you are riding your scooter on a pavement or footpath, give way to pedestrians.”

        • Paul Link.
          Originally perhaps, but even the Victorians had their equivalent in the form of bath chairs and the like. They used the pavements too.

          • Ms. Pinkfield
            No, I didn’t bother reading the link.
            However, common sense should prevail, or is that a concept alien to you? It is often the case that it is easier for the pedestrian to step aside you know, show some manners and sense.

          • “Common sense” and “the law” aren’t always the same thing (if there was, we’d see compulsory exercise for fat people). I’m assuming Paul was asking what the legal position is, something I have clarified.

    • I have had a disability scooter for over two years now. It is bigger and heavier that CT’s – byt then I am considerably bigger and heavier than her. Most road users in Thanet are much more polite than my previous experience as a pedestrian in London. My basic gripes are cars being parked on narrow pavements and refuse bins not being put back inside gates. We are thus forced into the road but overall folk down here are sympathetic

    • It is isn’t just elderly who use these scooters. There is many a young Bunter whizzing between Maccy D and KFC on them!

  7. “lucky he went into a pedestrian,who softened his fall and not a lamppost”!You seem to have more sympathy for the moron on the scooter,than the pedestrian.No,he deserved to go into the lamppost and suffer injuries,rather than the innocent pedestrian.
    Your comments are contradictory.You want them banned,but do not criticise these idiots for hitting pedestrians.

    • I think she was being ironic love, Christine feels very strongly these scooters should be illegal. I do too. “Anne” has had potentially life changing injuries because of this person who smashed her arm. As an older person, however fit, recovery is not easy or guaranteed. The person who did it didn’t mean to, and they weren’t on drugs or drunk. They just didn’t see her and because they were on the machine travelling at speed they nearly killed her. Ban the stupid machines.

  8. Christine Tongue,
    Quote: “It is not clear what the rules are with e-scooters”. You have hit the nail on its head.
    Having been narrowly missed on several occasions by these menaces on our pavements, it is about time the rules were made very clear to all.
    Should we start with proper instruction, a fitness to ride test (licence), insurance and some form of identification on the machine?
    As things are I understand that they are ILLEGAL TO USE IN PUBLIC, but that appears to be completely ignored by every single owner and rider.
    These scooters are marvellous things, easy to use as personal transport, and so is a motorcycle but we don’t allow them to be totally unregulated for very obvious reasons.
    Wake up authorities – and perhaps the police could pay more attention rather than looking at what we all think in case it offends somebody.

  9. I don’t know why any sort of technology attracts outrageous claims on it’s efficacy, without much if any proof.
    With E scooters there have been all sorts of individuals stating that these things are the solution to urban travel,when of course they are nothing of the sort.
    It seems to me, that the various trials have not really worked at all well.
    Banning is not an option now that so many exist.
    So, yes write some rules about their use. Licence them, and require their owners and users to have something similar to a cycling proficiency certificate. Insurance of course,but the real problem is where can they be used?
    I would suggest that the same rules for cycles ought to apply, and that helmets etc should be worn
    There ought to be enough data to write a report and to make recommendations by now.
    I would also like spot inspections and an annual safety test.Fines for tampering with them should be steep and mean that crushing of the scooter is mandatory.
    I don’t think any new laws are required if they cause harm, just they need application.
    I too, would like them prohibited but I think that ship has sailed long ago.

    • Helmets should NOT be compulsory for cyclists. On the contrary, there is evidence that when people where them they become more reckless, wrongly thinking it will protect them from being crushed by lorries, etc. Anyway, where do we stop? More people get killed or seriously injured crossing roads – should they wear full body armour to protect them?

      • An acquaintance of mine was a team leader in the ICU at the London Hospital, in Whitechapel.
        He observed that he’d seen many helmeted cyclists in casualty.

        The ones without helmets were in the morgue.

      • My sister in law came off a cycle and was not riding furiously but down a hill . Front wheel hit a hole a she ended up in hospital with a fractured skull at 10 miles an hour. Helmet would have prevented this serious injury. Perhaps you should think before writing.

        • Many are against making helmets a legal requirement. They believe it is an ineffective safety measure which discourages people from cycling. It is also thought to create an image of a high-risk activity. They argue cycling is a healthy, cheap and environmentally friendly form of transport. They think that many of the risks that cyclists face should be reduced through improvements to infrastructure, signage, education and training.

          Another argument against helmets arises from research at the University of Bath. It demonstrated that cyclists wearing protective helmets did have an effect – but a negative one. The research showed that car drivers passed, on average, 8.5cm closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets. This is compared to overtaking those without a helmet. This effect is known as ‘risk compensation’ and can increase the likelihood of a collision.

          Interestingly, as many cyclists are perceived to be young and male, research discovered that motorists gave more space to a cyclist who wore a long flowing wig to look female. Research demonstrates ‘risk compensation’ also affects people participating in a range of sportsy.. These people tend to take more risks once they are wearing protective clothed, including helmets. This is because they are lulled into a false sense of security. However, it maybe that it is the nature of the sport being undertaken that increases the risk rather than the act of putting on a helmet.

          Studies also suggest those wearing helmets are more susceptible to injury. This is due to both an increase in head size due to the size of the helmet, but also the fact that they are less aware of their surroundings due to muffled hearing.

          • From ‘Cycling UK’ website:

            There is no justification for making helmet-wearing compulsory: it could undermine levels of cycle use and, in any case, the effectiveness of helmets is far from clear.

            Cycling UK is opposed to both cycle helmet laws and to helmet promotion campaigns because these are almost certainly detrimental to public health. Evidence shows that the health benefits of cycling are so much greater than the relatively low risks involved, that even if these measures caused only a very small reduction in cycle use, this would still almost certainly mean far more lives being lost through physical inactivity than helmets could possibly save, however effective.
            In any case, helmets are, and can only be, designed to withstand minor knocks and falls, not serious traffic collisions. .
            Much evidence suggests that neither enforced helmet laws nor promotion campaigns reduce serious head injuries, except by reducing cycling; and that remaining cyclists do not gain any detectable reduction in risk, and may lose some of the benefits from ‘safety in numbers’.
            So instead of focusing on helmets, health and road safety professionals and others should promote cycling as a safe, normal, aspirational and enjoyable activity, using helmet-free role-models and imagery. Individual cyclists may sometimes choose to use helmets, either for confidence or because of the type of cycling they are doing. However, they should not feel under any pressure to wear them. For the sake of our health, it is more important to encourage people of all ages to cycle, than to make an issue of whether they use a helmet when doing so.

            Government and other bodies concerned with health or road safety should simply aim to encourage people to cycle, regardless of whether or not they choose to wear helmets when doing so.
            Enforced helmet laws cause deep and enduring reductions in cycle use, undermining its very substantial health and other benefits. Given that the risks of cycling are low – they are not greatly different from those of walking or other forms of active recreation – even a very small reduction in cycle use would be counter-productive to health and other public policy objectives, regardless of the effectiveness or otherwise of helmets. In practice, this disbenefit is potentially very substantial, not least because the deterrent effect is likely to be strongest among key target groups for physical activity promotion, e.g. women, teenagers, less well-off communities and ethnic minority groups.
            Cycle helmets have in any case not been shown to be an effective way to reduce cyclists’ injury risks. Indeed they might even be counter-productive, by encouraging drivers or cyclists to behave less cautiously, and/or by increasing the risks of neck and other injuries. By deterring people from cycling, they may also reduce the benefits that cyclists gain from ‘safety in numbers’.
            Enforcing helmet laws would require levels of police activity that would be grossly disproportionate to any possible benefits. Conversely, unenforced helmet laws make no long-term difference to helmet use, and therefore cannot provide benefits in any case.
            Road safety policies should prioritise measures that reduce the risks that deter people from cycling – traffic speeds, hostile roads and junctions, dangerous or irresponsible driving, and lorries – and offering high quality cycle training for people of all ages, to give them the confidence and skills to ride safely on the roads.
            Individuals should be free to make their own decisions about whether or not to wear helmets, with parents making these decisions in the case of younger children. Their decisions should be informed by clear information about the uncertainties over the benefits or otherwise of helmets.
            Cycling UK supports politicians, celebrities and other role-models who choose to cycle un-helmeted. Far from “acting irresponsibly”, they help to boost the perception of cycling as a normal, safe, aspirational and stylish activity that anyone can do in whatever clothes they normally wear.
            Schools, employers and the organisers of non-sporting cycling events (e.g. sponsored rides) should not impose helmet rules for their pupils, staff and participants respectively. These rules are not justified in terms of health and safety, they are likely to reduce both the numbers and the diversity of people who take part in cycling, and they may in some circumstances be illegal.
            There is limited evidence on the risks involved in different types of off-road recreational cycling (from family riding to downhill mountain biking etc) and cycle sport. Likewise, evidence on the potential for helmet use to mitigate (or exacerbate) these risks is equally limited. These are in any case not matters for road safety policy.
            For sporting events, Cycling UK recognises the right of governing bodies to require the wearing of helmets in line with their own and international regulations for these events, given the different types of risk to which sport cyclists are exposed.

          • Mexico City helmet law repealed after less than a year

            On 16 February 2010 Mexico City scrapped its mandatory cycle helmet law that was only enacted in 2009.

            The Government wants to boost cycling in the city from a modal share of 2% to 5% within 3 years and its Secretaria del Medio Ambiente (Department of Environment) realised that obliging cyclists to wear a helmet gave the impression that riding a bicycle was inherently dangerous and that wouldn’t encourage people to cycle more in order to reach the 5% target.

            There was also the fear that an unhelmeted cyclist would automatically be at fault in any crash even if the blame lay primarily with a motorist. In December 2008, 94% of cyclists did not wear a helmet.

            On the same day as the repeal of the helmet law, the first public bicycle system, Ecobici, was launched, which is part of the Government’s plan to increase the number of cycling commuters. The viability of the rental scheme was threatened if its users had to wear a helmet.

          • Bosnia becomes first country to repeal a cycle helmet law
            BikeBiz 01/03/2017 News

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            Bosnia and Herzegovina has become the first country in the world to repeal an all-ages cycle helmet compulsion law. The campaign to repeal the law was started six years ago by the Centre for Environment group.

            “Citizens can now choose whether or not they want to wear a safety helmet,” said the Centre for Environment’s Tihomir Dakic.

            Anti-compulsion campaigners say that mandatory cycle helmet laws undermine efforts to increase cycling by making riding a bike seem more dangerous than it is, then putting the blame on cyclists if a crash does occur.

            Dakic added: “This returns the focus from reducing the consequences of crashes, to minimizing the causes of traffic crashes. Cycling has been incorrectly presented as a dangerous activity. In fact, the health benefits of the daily use of the bicycle outweigh the traffic risks by around twenty-to-one.

            “We invite all those who stopped using the bicycle due to the helmet law to return to it, to respect traffic rules and enjoy all the benefits that cycling provides.”

            Sue Knaup, executive director of the international cycle advocacy group One Street, said:

            “Bosnia and Herzegovina has set an important precedent with this repeal. Any law that mandates the wearing of helmets or other articles, criminalizes the use of bicycles as an efficient and affordable means of transportation.”

            The European Cyclists’ Federation Ceri Woolsgrove welcomed the law’s repeal:

            “Cyclists should be able to choose whether to wear or not to wear helmets. The Centre for Environment, a member of the ECF, has highlighted this important issue. Cycling is not an overly dangerous activity and brings tremendous health benefits for individuals, and has a positive effect on the environment and society as a whole.”

            Mexico City has previously repealed a compulsory helmet law, and Israel partially revoked its helmet compulsion law, but the move by Bosnia and Herzegovina is the first all-ages, all-areas repeal.

        • Joe – perhaps you should do some research before answering? I’ve studied this for years, and know what I’m talking about.

          • The wearing of a helmet by a cyclist might or might not encourage more risk-taking.
            What it does not do is influence the behaviour of (for example) a car driver pulling into the path of a cyclist, having failed to notice him or her. The resulting collision would undoubtedly see the cyclist flying over the handle bars, possibly suffering a “bulls eye” collision with the cars windscreen.
            The outcome for the cyclist is likely to be quite different, depending on whether or not they were wearing a helmet (and hi-viz).
            I don’t th8nk legislation is necessary. Good education is.

          • More cyclists need to take prime position (ie, middle of the lane), as The Highway Code encourages. Many a time I have held up cars and buses along the Canterbury Road until I have chance to pull over safely. Now THAT is “good education”.

      • “More cyclists need to take prime position …”
        Yes I deed. I’m a keen advocate of John Franklin’s book “Cyclecraft”, where describes the importance of understanding when and when not to use Primay and Secondary positions.
        Education is not exclusive.

        • My point is, the majority of people – cyclists and motorists alike – aren’t aware of this. I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve been told to “cycle on the pavement”! We need both better education and better infrastructure. I was in Amsterdam last year, and cyclists there out-number motorists by about 30 to 1 – hardly any of whom wear helmets.

          • What comes first?

            If we had better cycling infrastructure and made motoring more expensive, perhaps we’d have the same here… or perhaps not, as the British are notoriously fat and lazy in comparison to most of Europe.

  10. Really, you obviously have never been knocked of a bike.50 years ago I was carrying a pillion passenger on a yamaha twin, which I had rigged up with a crash bar and lights, when a ford cortina driven by a drunk, hit us amidships and I flew through the air a collosal distance I landed with a bump and the road ground the helmet near through to the lining.If I had no helmet on, my head would have been holed instead.
    Back then there were jokers like you saying that helmets were unnecessary.
    Pedestrians are a different case and the Highway code has created a pyramid of priorities with pedestrians given the highest priority.Why are you so obtuse? As I said banning E scooters is not possible,so the best thing we can do is ameliorate and regulate.

    • Several of my friends and family members .cycle, and have done so since they were children. I am therefore very much in support of cyclists wearing cycle helmets and high-vis. And I think e-scooters should be banned.

  11. It is isn’t just elderly who use these scooters. There is many a young Bunter whizzing between Maccy D and KFC on them!

  12. I think you will find scooters are illegal on private land as well if the public can access it. So many ways of getting tripped up.

  13. I so agree with this. I, as a pedestrian, with a dog, have been hit about 6 times now by e-scooters. As a driver, the back of my car was hit when an E-csooter collided with me at speed, (I had braked),causing about £1000 damage. Had dash cam footage of incident.
    The police did not want to know, until I contacted my MP who wrote to the Chief Constable of Kent Police, who then proceeded with a conviction. No money for damages came my way.
    They are a public nuisance to road users and pedestrians. They are illegal, dangerous and should be banned, or at least, owners should have insurance and be licensed. Rant over.

  14. A very good article, thank you. E scooters are a menace. Paris had them. Paris banned them. I don’t want to be run into by one. Several near misses but I do keep me eyes open for them. You can’t always hear them either.
    Bicyles being risen fast on pavements is a pain as well. One occasion rider said “Bloody dog walkers.” I replied very loudly”Bloody cyclists.” I have a dog. However most are good. Most e scooter riders are not good. Where are the Police? In the cafe. Sitting in warm cars or vans. Never doing what we pedestrians need.

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