Opinion piece: are Nottingham’s e-scooters a necessary addition to the city?

Wind Mobility has launched a year-long trial that has filled Nottingham city centre with bright yellow e-scooters, calling out people to ‘ride like the wind!’. However, there are mixed opinions as to whether the scooters are safe. Kirke Viira gives her opinion on e-scooters and the need for them in the city.

The electric scooter is an environmentally friendly solution for travelling, and it’s especially useful now when we’re all trying to avoid close contact with other people. But this new way of commuting brings another risk factor into the daily traffic system – for people using them, but also for everyone on the streets. That means that even if you don’t trust e-scooters to be a safe travelling method for yourself, you’d still have to be careful of other people not using them appropriately.

The maximum speed limit for e-scooters is 15.5mph, however, they can only go up to 4mph in areas where there are pedestrians. Thus, in the city centre, the scooter’s speed should be equal to the average walking pace.

But personal electric scooters do not have that limit, and within a few days, I’ve seen people accelerate past me on main streets with a speed that should definitely not be allowed in such places. Just today, I almost saw a crash between a police car and two teenaged girls sharing one scooter on Clumber Street.

When privately owned scooters are less regulated and thus more unsafe, Wind Mobility has created strict rules for their riders. First of all, you cannot rent the scooter unless you have a driving license, proving that you have enough knowledge of how to be responsible and cautious in traffic. This strict rule also determines the minimum age of the riders – to be able to acquire a provisional driving license they need to be over 16 years old.

The company has also asserted that it is illegal to ride on pavements and that there can only be one person per scooter. They’ve gone out of their way to make sure they have created the best conditions for riders to have a good and safe experience. The scooters come with a helmet, hands-free phone holder, bell, lights and built-in hand sanitisers. There is also a 24-hour support line and regular maintenance checks.

I’d say that the company has put a lot of effort into making their service reliable enough to gain people’s trust and invite everyone to give a chance to this innovative way of travelling. The preparation and groundwork for the scooter trial has been well-thought-out, and now it is up to the riders to demonstrate their willingness to abide by the rules and recommendations. However, has Wind Mobility been too confident expecting that all riders will be sensible enough to follow the guidelines?

The trial that began on October 27 had a good start, but unease is slowly starting to arise in the community. There have been many complaints of people stranding the scooters at inappropriate places, impeding the pedestrians and blocking their routes. There have luckily been no accidents within the first weeks, which shows that so far, people have succeeded to understand how to ride the scooters correctly.

I believe that this movement is a great way to promote alternative means of transportation, that will decrease the use of cars and improve air quality. I think now is the best time to start this trial, as during lockdown streets are emptier, which will allow scooter riders, cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers to slowly get used to taking each other into account on the streets. Electric scooters also offer a solution to people who are too anxious to use public transport during the pandemic.

If you’re over 16 and own a driving license, then I’d definitely recommend giving it a try, assuming you’re aware of all the limitations and rules. If you’re not so confident about your riding skills, I would go out at a time when the streets are not excessively crowded so you can have room to practise.

It’s been a long time since a new and innovative method of transportation has been welcomed to the streets. Some people will be critical about this addition, worrying about the dangers that e-scooters can cause. But in reality, if there are strict guidelines put in place and improved over time, e-scooters do not impose any greater harm than any other form of transportation. Instead, they can play a huge part in bettering our environment in the long run.

Written by Kirke Viira

Feature image credit: Transport Nottingham

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