E-scooter trial delayed in Luton as council requests more safety information

An e-scooter trial in Luton has been shelved until more information can be provided about public safety and enforcement issues.

By Euan Duncan
Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 11:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 2:19 pm

An e-scooter trial in Luton has been shelved until more information can be provided about public safety and enforcement issues.

The government-led pilot project would use cycle paths in the town, the borough council's executive heard.

But Labour Saints councillor Javed Hussain fears the local authority could be used as "a guinea pig" and was among several committee members to raise concerns.

The trial would have seen as many as 200 rental e-scooters in Luton (Getty Images)

Labour South councillor Paul Castleman said: "Following approaches from four e-scooter rental companies, interest was sought from operators to run a trial in Luton.

"There were 11 submissions received. The preferred e-scooter operator was a company called Ginger, which is also doing a trial in Milton Keynes.

"Its appointment has been approved and a formal proposal is due to be submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) to run an e-scooter trial locally."

The council has been working with Ginger to develop the proposals, identify the trial area and suitable scooter parking locations, and with Bedfordshire Police.

"About 40 rental scooters will be provided initially, with no more than four at each parking location.

"This is expected to rise to 200 scooters at 40 locations, six months into the trial.

"Ginger will employ a local coordinator to redistribute the e-scooters and to change the batteries when there is less than 20 per cent power remaining."

The proposals were due to be put to ministers this month.

Labour Saints councillor Javed Hussain wondered what the maximum speed is of the e-scooters, where they would be charged and who pays for extra signage?

"What's to stop joyriders registering themselves, zooming all over the town and creating a public nuisance?" he asked.

"Who pays for that enforcement? If there are injuries to pedestrians, who pays the compensation?

"This seems to be creating a problem for ourselves. It's not a legal requirement from government.

"Is there any need to be a guinea pig?"

Councillor Castleman, who's the executive member for planning and transport, replied: "It's not being forced on us. Of course, it isn't.

"I personally don't like them. It's entirely up to executive to say 'yes' or 'no'."

Labour Lewsey councillor Aslam Khan said: "I'm always in favour of pilots and looking to lead rather than follow.

"You can only find out when you try. But my reservations are like others.

"We've got to be a little practical and see how will this be rolled out."

Councillor Castleman agreed, saying: "It's no good having a pilot if we're not ready for it. There are too many unanswered questions."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "As things stand, the whole town is absolutely swamped by people riding these scooters on the pavements. They're very dangerous.

"I seriously suggest that this experiment should be postponed until you can confidently police and control what's going on now."

Labour Farley councillor Sian Timoney said: "Whatever the benefits are, my preference is to defer the trial until we can have all those questions answered in a meeting."

Council leader and Labour Lewsey councillor Hazel Simmons, who chairs the executive, said: "I agree with the comments made about this.

"We'll take it away and respond as soon as we can." Councillors deferred the issue until next month.