Concerns over safety of new Northampton e-scooter scheme after shopper says he was 'hit by brake light'

Nigel Whiting was waiting for his wife who was shopping in Abington Street when he was hit by a flying brake light cap in the shoulder

By Carly Roberts
Tuesday, 8th September 2020, 9:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th September 2020, 10:18 am
One of the Voi scooters was left outside The Old White Hart pub, on the railings, leaving members of the public to lift it down.
One of the Voi scooters was left outside The Old White Hart pub, on the railings, leaving members of the public to lift it down.

Complaints have been made to Northamptonshire County Council over supposed underage e-scooter users driving on the pavements in Northampton town centre.

It comes as a 12-month electric scooter trial was launched in the town last week to encourage a new mode of transport that reduces the town’s carbon footprint.

But since the launch, the scheme has been criticised by councillors and the public over the dangers the e-scooters pose to pedestrians when they are being misused.

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Nigel Whiting, from the Headlands, was hit by a brake light cap on Sunday afternoon after a e-scooter user did a wheelie, causing the mudguard and back light to drag on the floor before 'buckling' and pinging off.

He said: "I, like an awful lot of people, was out on Sunday where hoards of youths were riding up and down from All Saints up through the pedestrianised area. These things go so fast the kids have learned they can do wheelies on them.

"The lense to the back light snapped off and hit me like a missile. The experience was not very nice, it could have taken your eye out.

"What is needed is a cattle-grid or the like putting at one end so you can stop scooter-riders in Abington Street."

The light lense Nigel was hit by.

Three hundred e-scooters, which are paid for by the minute via an app, have been dotted around the town at places such as the train station, bus station and the university campus, in bid to encourage bus, taxi or car users to jump on a scooter instead.

The scooters have an area of the town where they are allowed to be taken to, which has been worked out by Voi and the county council and includes the town centre and stretches to as far as Moulton Park.

The vehicles must then be parked in public areas where the next users can locate the scooter using the Voi app.

Although, the scooters can be parked anywhere, publicly, there are designated places, detailed on the app, where the company prefers them to be parked. This is incentivised with offers of discounted rides if users park the scooter in the designated area.

E-scooter users pictured riding in Abington Street on Sunday morning.

One drop-off location, which is not a designated parking location for e-scooters, is on top of railings.

Suzy Keeping, landlady at the Old White Hart in Far Cotton, woke up on Sunday morning to see about eight scooters parked outside the pub - one, bizarrley, was placed on top of some railings.

She said: "I woke up on Sunday to about seven or eight different regulars who had sent me the photo. I could not get it down, it was so much heavier than it looked and it was really high up.

"I asked a couple of our locals to help but then I saw on Facebook it had been taken down.

Voi scooters were rolled out on Thursday in the town centre.

"I don't think the scheme is a bad idea but I don't think it's monitored that well."

Moving traffic offences are handled by Northamptonshire Police who can hand out six points to riders caught being irresponsible.

Councillor Jason Smithers, county council cabinet member for Highways and Place, said: “The consequences for users caught flouting e-scooter rules can be costly - as well as receiving an on-the-spot fine, users face having six penalty points added to their driving licence.

"E-scooters can be driven on some roads and bike paths, but absolutely not on pavements.

"The Voi app requires a picture of the driver’s licence, which will be used to enforce any breaches of the trial e-scooter rules.”

Northampton Borough Councillor James Hill (Con, Rectory Farm) said: "I love the idea of @voitechnology scooters in principle but after two days issues are already happening. Riding on pavements, under 18’s using them-to name a few A real shame that @mycountycouncil did no consultation with @NorthamptonBC or @NorthantsPolice before installing them."

Kristina Hunter-Nilsson of Voi added: “Voi e-scooters launched in Northampton last Thursday and since then we have seen extremely high usage of the vehicles each day. Thousands of people have now tried Voi e-scooters in Northampton with only a handful of reported problems or incidents.

"We are working closely with Northamptonshire County Council to educate people about how and where e-scooters should be ridden and parked. E-scooters are an asset to town and city centres, providing visitors and residents with a new convenient, fun and low-carbon mode of transport, which is particularly important at the current time when public transport capacity is reduced to maintain social distancing.

“In no circumstances should e-scooters be ridden on pavements or by those under-18s or those without a provisional driving licence. We are working with the police to ensure that these rules are being followed and vandalism or criminal activity will be reported. We want Northampton's residents and visitors to experience how e-scooters can improve and enhance their town and we will adjust elements of the trial, where required, to make that happen.”