Voi responds to scathing criticism from anti-scooter campaigner who STILL wants trials "shut down immediately"

"It was clear to everyone that what was happening in the Northampton e-scooter trial was not safe."

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Saturday, 17th April 2021, 9:38 am

Voi Scooters has responded to criticism from an anti e-scooter activist who is calling for the transport trials in the town to stop following the death of a 75-year-old man in Northampton last year.

Mr Philip Jones, from Northampton, died from injuries he sustained while trying to move a Voi e-scooter out of his way while travelling to the doctors on his mobility scooter. Mr Jones tried to move the scooter but fell into the road. He died 12 days later of a fractured neck and multiple organ failure.

The man's brother said the incident was 'completely avoidable' and said if the scooter was not there then his brother would still be alive.

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A discarded e-scooter in Abington Street on Wednesday (April 15)

Sarah Gayton, a street access campaign coordinator from the National Federation of the Blind of the UK, has slammed Voi and West Northamptonshire Council for continuing with the scooter trials.

She began by saying: "The tragic death of Mr Philip Jones clearly shows the rentable e-scooter trials are not safe and they need to be suspended at once.

"It was clear to everyone that what was happening in the Northampton e-scooter trial was not safe. E-scooters were being left on the pavements, blocking them and creating trip hazards for anybody needing to get past them.

"Questions have to be asked why the trial was not shut down immediately when these problems started to arise, why the trials were not shut down when Mr Philip Jones was injured and why they were not shut down after he passed away."

The discarded e-scooter which Ms Gayton saw at the railway station

Voi responded to this claim by saying: "The death of Mr Jones has not been directly linked to Voi and suggesting the scooter trial therefore be halted does not make sense."

At the inquest into Mr Jones' death, coroner Anne Pember concluded that the man's death was accidental.

Ms Gayton went on to say that she recently visited Northampton from her home in Yorkshire and was 'shocked' with what she saw.

She said: "After visiting Northampton on Wednesday (April 15), it was very clear, even after seven months after the trial was started, the safe parking of rentable e-scooters in Northampton has not been resolved.

Although there is a rack outside the station, Ms Gayton is unhappy with the way the scooters have not been properly locked in

"I was shocked to see e-scooters still being left in dangerous locations: on pavements, next to the zebra crossing on the Drapery and in the pedestrian only zone in the town centre.

"One e-scooter was witnessed on its side half leaning up the wall, just around the corner from the parking rack next to the train station, which shows even where a parking rack is present users are still leaving them in a dangerous location.

"These e-scooters are an instant random risk to pedestrian safety and there has been enough time to resolve this issue. The trial is still not safe and vulnerable pedestrians and people using mobility aids are still at risk."

Voi responded to the issue of parking scooters by citing its data.

A Voi spokesman said: "Our data shows that 97 per cent of riders park their e-scooters in the designated zones. The majority of our users park responsibly and we adhere to three strikes and you are out policy for those riders who do not follow our guidelines."

Ms Gayton then went on to call out West Northamptonshirte Council and, in particular, Councillor Jason Smithers, who is man behind the trials.

The campaigner said: "During a BBC Radio Northampton interview on the September 28 last year, I stated that I was absolutely petrified that someone would get killed or seriously injured or terrified not even to be able to come out and walk the streets of Northampton independently. That it was serious danger to public health, to people's lives and people's accessibility, and said they should be removed instantly.

"During the same interview, Cllr Jason Smithers stated that they were working heavily towards putting in scooter docks, and that they were on the way to us. He is also stated if it did not work and if there are issues continually going on, we have no issue of pulling the scheme."

The council has been contacted for comment in regards to Ms Gayton's claims.

"It is clear the scheme was not halted, and it is clear there are still ongoing safety concerns. It was reported in this paper that four e-scooter racks arrived on the March 15 this year. From the three I witnessed two cannot be used at full capacity due to their location.

"This is far too little and far too late. It is also clear from what was witnessed at the train station, users are still leaving them in dangerous locations, even if a rack is there.

"The trial should be shut down immediately, it was never safe and it is still not safe, there has been enough time to resolve the safety issues and this has not happened."

Voi's response in full:

"As stated before, we express our sincerest sympathy to the family of Mr Jones with regard to this tragic accident.

"The death of Mr Jones has not been directly linked to Voi and suggesting the scooter trial therefore be halted does not make sense. The inquest found the cause of death to be accidental.

"Voi has been in contact with the relevant parties, including Northamptonshire Police, West Northamptonshire Council and the Department of Transport, and we will continue to assist in any necessary investigation if required.

"Together with the town we are constantly evaluating and improving the service. As Ms Gayton points out, in March we installed four e-scooter racks in cooperation with the town.

"Further racks will also be deployed in agreed areas. In addition to the physical racks, our data show that 97% of riders park their e-scooters in the designated zones. The majority of our users park responsibly and we adhere to three strikes and you are out policy for those riders who do not follow our guidelines.

"Ms Gayton is a very vocal opponent of scooters but alas she ignores the facts and will probably continue to do so. Scooters can and should be part of a shift away from cars on our streets and the facts show that this can be done quickly, sustainably and safely."

In response to Ms Gayton's concerns following the death of Mr Jones, a West Northamptonshire Council spokesperson said: “We are working with Voi to ensure the scheme continues to be delivered as safely as possible”