‘It’s not safe’: Campaigners for blind and visually impaired frustrated by e-scooter parking solution in Northampton

Campaigners are calling for the trial to be halted as they believe the scooters are hazard to vulnerable pedestrians

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 6:00 am

A campaign group for the blind and visually impaired has been left frustrated by the e-scooter parking solution in Northampton.

Parking racks were launched in the town last week (March 15) and the move has highlighted new concerns for The National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK).

The organisation has concerns around pavement clutter caused by the racks and is also worried that by locating racks on pavements riders will be encouraged to travel on pavements, which is illegal as the e-scooters are classified as motor vehicles.

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Campaigners are concerned about scooters being left on the pavement as they do not believe the parking racks do not discourage this behaviour enough.
Campaigners are concerned about scooters being left on the pavement as they do not believe the parking racks do not discourage this behaviour enough.

Sarah Gayton, street access campaign coordinator for NFBUK, said: “The NFBUK does not recommend the Voi design and the proposed RNIB rack design to be used on pavements or public areas where pedestrians have access, they should be used in car parking spaces and in car parks.

“The e-scooter parking racks are street clutter and allow users to ride on pavements or public spaces, to drop them off or to start their ride.

“Riders can obstruct the pavement and public space while sorting out their ride.

“Also there will be times when there is not enough space in the racks so people will leave e-scooters next to them in a random nature and which they could also fall over.

The racks were launched in the town last week.

“This will cause further obstructions and trip hazards on the pavement.

“Pavement clutter and ending parking on pavements are key campaigns the NFBUK support and it is inconceivable that new forms of clutter and pavement parking should be added to pavements and pedestrian spaces.

“The NFBUK cannot accept scooters to be left anywhere or at geofenced parking areas, as this still does not guarantee them being left in a safe manner.

“This is not safe for any vulnerable pedestrian, as they are a trip hazard, they can obstruct the pavement, they can be knocked over and they can fall onto people.”

Due to these safety concerns, the federation is calling for the trial to be halted while more and different parking is established.

Ms Gayton has also raised concerns around whether insurance is in place if a pedestrian is hit by a scooter or trips over one.

In response, Voi says the scooter racks have been located to avoid causing pavement clutter and in relation to insurance, the company states it does not discuss hypothetical accident scenarios, but says there is public liability insurance in place.

A spokeswoman for Voi said: “We are currently working with the RNIB to ensure we include their recommendations to make our e-scooter pilot safer for pedestrians with sight loss.

“These parking racks are modular, and we will continue to make improvements in the upcoming months so we have the best and safest parking infrastructure in the UK.

“The location of the parking racks has been carefully selected to avoid clutter and nuisance to other pedestrians, particularly vulnerable ones, and Voi continues to work closely with local officers to ensure these and upcoming parking racks are placed in the best and safest locations.

"In accordance with the requirements of the Department for Transport (DfT), Voi maintains motor third party liability insurance. In addition to the insurance requirements set by DfT, Voi is also proud to maintain personal accident insurance to our riders.

"In addition to the insurance covering our riders, Voi also maintains insurance covering our UK operations, including public and products liability with a limit in excess of £10 million."

Addressing the overall safety concerns, Voi explained that the long-term goal of the scooters is to replace short car rides, meaning car parking spaces could then be replaced with e-scooter parking spaces, which is a ‘work in progress’.

The spokeswoman added: “Voi incentivises and rewards its users to complete its digital e-scooter driving school, RideLikeVoi, where they will find information on how to ride and park the e-scooter correctly.

“In addition, Voi offers its users regular online safety webinars that they can join for free. “There is also advice in the app on how to park properly.

“Voi advises its users to park responsively to ensure the e-scooters are not causing obstruction to pedestrians, especially vulnerable ones, such as those with visual or mobility impairments, children, and the elderly.

“As part of Voi’s operations, a team of Voi ambassadors patrols the operating e-scooter zone and adjusts and corrects any incorrectly parked e-scooters that they come across.

"Voi scooters have stickers with several different contacts, which the public can use to report an incorrectly parked scooter.”

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