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The e-scooter invasion: can we cope? 

London has become the latest UK city to launch a trial of e-scooters on public roads

“Travelling by scooter was once the preserve of children making their way to primary school,” said Kaya Burgess in The Times. No longer. Countless people have been buying electric scooters and flouting the law by riding them on public roads. Meanwhile, those who wanted to ride these devices legally have been able to do so under trial rental schemes in more than 40 UK towns and cities, including Birmingham and Manchester. 

Last week, London followed suit, allowing five boroughs to experiment with hiring out e-scooters. For an initial £1, plus 15p a minute, users can zip along roads and cycle paths at a maximum speed of 12.5mph. Altogether, there are now more than 11,000 rental e-scooters in the UK, which have already been used for some three million trips, said Ellen Peirson-Hagger in the New Statesman. Scooters are a convenient, environmentally-friendly transport option that allows for social distancing. They are also a “fun” way to travel. Are they “set to become a mainstay of metropolitan life”? 

As someone who occasionally likes to venture out on foot, I really hope not, said Jane Shilling in The Daily Telegraph. I’m with chief superintendent Simon Ovens of the Metropolitan Police, who has condemned unregulated e-scooters as “absolute death traps”. The people who whizz along on these silent devices seem to regard pedestrians as just “so many skittles to be bowled over”. The rise of e-scooters has posed a particular threat to blind and partially-sighted people, said Chris Theobald on Transport-Network.co.uk. Legalising the public use of these devices “would have a dramatic and irreversible effect on our streets”. 

Let’s not write off e-scooters on the basis of their misuse by some rogue riders, said Annabel Denham in The Spectator. They’re no more dangerous than other forms of transport such as cars and bikes, which can likewise be abused. Legalising them would improve standards by allowing more regulation and providing safety in numbers. Users would join other e-scooter riders on the roads and be less tempted to veer onto pavements. This is one of the fastest-growing technologies of all time: “e-scooters are expected to surpass half a billion rides globally by the end of this year”. Given that a third of these rides replace car journeys, that represents a lot of saved CO2 emissions and congestion. We can hardly afford to pass those benefits up. True, e-scooters carry some perils, but we cannot live entirely risk-free lives. “What we can do is live ones with added convenience, lower transport costs, and a little less pollution.”

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