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Volume 813: debated on Monday 12 July 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to tackle the illegal riding of e-scooters.

My Lords, enforcement of road traffic law and how available resources are deployed to tackle illegal riding of e-scooters is an operational matter for chief officers, according to local police plans. The Government will continue to support the police by ensuring that they have the tools needed to enforce road traffic legislation, including those related to electric scooters.

My Lords, this Government claim to represent the party of law and order, and certainly they often talk about crackdowns, but, when it comes to e-scooters, they have allowed, even encouraged, de facto legalisation without the necessary legislation to protect riders and the public. This has caused problems to escalate out of control in a wild west of lawlessness, where riders are terrorising pedestrians, especially those with disabilities and visual impairment. The Government have also failed to regulate the sale and use of private ones, which probably number in the hundreds of thousands. Why are this Government refusing to act on e-scooters and keep people safe?

My Lords, in terms of the concerns that the noble Baroness expresses, I completely agree with her, which is why trials have been rolled out over the country, which will end in March of next year. In terms of what those trials have yielded, the Metropolitan Police service has seized over 1,000 e-scooters in the last month. I also concur with the noble Baroness in her view about vulnerable people, which is why rented scooters, which are legal, have horns that let people know that they are coming.

My Lords, e-scooters represent one of the dangers to cyclists in ever-increasing number using the cycle lanes. Will the Minister consequently ensure that consideration of a ban of e-scooters might include consideration of a cycle lane code, like the Highway Code, for greater safety of users?

My Lords, that is one of the things being suggested. As a cyclist myself, as I said when I answered the last Oral Question on this subject, it is quite terrifying for these things to come up behind you. You cannot hear them, you cannot see them until they are upon you, and they go really quite fast. So, at the end of the trial, I am sure that all those things will be taken into consideration.

My Lords, I am a big fan of e-scooters and am delighted that the Government are carrying out these trials. Does the Minister know how many miles have so far been travelled on legal e-scooters hired under the Government’s pilot schemes, and is there any estimation of what contribution they have made to reducing both congestion and pollution in our cities?

My Lords, somewhere I have the figures for how many miles have been driven on them, but what is certain is that they have reduced congestion. But the trials will be the perfect way to see that they can be used in a safe way.

My Lords, the proliferation of privately owned e-scooters appears out of control, with traffic police turning a blind eye to measures of enforcement. What measures can be taken to avoid e-scooters being driven on pavements or retrofitted to increase their speed, and to prohibit e-scooter drivers from carrying a passenger?

My Lords, several measures can be taken. You can get a penalty fine of £300 and six points on your licence, or ghost licence, for uninsured use of these scooters, a £100 fine and three to six points for no driving licence, and a £50 fine for driving on a pavement.

My Lords, the reality is that our streets are becoming a nightmare for the young, the old, the blind and the disabled. Will the Home Secretary tell the Mayor of London that, although it is an operational matter, some confiscation of e-scooters is not enough and zero tolerance should be imposed on our pavements for e-scooters and bicycles? When did the Minister last see a police presence on the streets of London outside the precincts of Westminster?

I can confirm to the noble and learned Lord that I was on the streets of London on my bicycle on both Thursday and Friday and I have actually witnessed police seizing these e-scooters, as referenced by the figures that I gave earlier. And, just to come back to my noble friend Lord Vaizey, I can tell him that 5 million kilometres of journeys have taken place since the trials began.

The Government have let the problems associated with e-scooters escalate out of control. Retailers are not being held to their legal obligations and pilot schemes are so numerous that it is effectively back-door legalisation without any of the rules. Does the Minister accept that the Government instead should have legislated a couple of years ago with some basic, simple rules on minimum age, maximum speeds, licences and helmets?

My Lords, it is probably worth saying that it is not out of control. The statutory instrument for the trials was laid in June 2020, and you can own a private e-scooter but you cannot legally use one on the road. So the rules are clear and I have gone through the figures for how many e-scooters have been seized. But I do not think that there should be an outright ban on them. We should evaluate the trials as and when they finish next year.

My Lords, the Minister referred to the end of the trials, but, as we have already heard, for disabled people the unchallenged use of e-scooters on pavements is a nightmare that is happening now and needs to be addressed now. When will the Government take responsibility for ensuring that the law is enforced and pedestrians protected?

I thank my noble friend for his question, which he asked me a few weeks ago when we had the previous Question. I can inform him that DfT Ministers have held four round tables with groups representing vulnerable people. He is absolutely right that e-scooters can be extremely hazardous to people who are hard of sight or not swift on their feet. The last round table we had on this matter was last month. Clearly those groups have raised concerns about the trials and, when the trials finish, we will be able to evaluate the framework for the use of these scooters.

Police numbers are still considerably lower today than they were in 2010, and on top of this, the population is higher than it was just over a decade ago. Do the Government agree that, if police numbers were still at 2010 levels, the police would have more resources to stop people using e-scooters illegally, which would also be a greater deterrent to the illegal use of e-scooters?

The noble Lord will know that the Government remain on track—in fact, ahead of track—to deliver the number of 20,000 more police, because we have recognised that the demands on the police are changing and therefore that more police to tackle various types of crime are needed on our streets.

My Lords, the combination of e-scooters and the new electronic bikes, both often ridden dangerously fast along our pavements, is a real threat to the safety of pedestrians. They are also very nippy for criminal activity. What are the Government proposing to do to regularise the position now, not next March? We really want action, not round tables.

My noble friend has a point about the here and now. I said earlier that the police had in the last month seized 1,000 e-scooters that should not have been on the streets—or indeed, as noble Lords have said, on the pavement. They are in a different category from the e-bikes. You have to put some effort into propelling e-bikes forward, whereas scooters are entirely self-propelling.