E-scooter row rages on as Milton Keynes becomes first to have full-scale service

  • Watch a report from ITV Anglia's Rebecca Haworth

Milton Keynes has become the first place in the UK to roll out a full-scale electric scooter service.

500 of them are now available for the public to use, but there are concerns about just how safe e-scooters are.

The electric scooter has been branded a green and socially-distanced way of getting around.

Now, a fleet has been deployed across the town of Milton Keynes by a company called Lime. It's the largest roll-out they have ever done in the UK.  

Florence Milner, Lime's General Manager for UK and Ireland, said: "It couldn't have come at a better time - during the pandemic and as people are starting to get back to work.

Florence Milner, General Manager for Lime UK and Ireland. Credit: ITV

"People are crying out for green, safe, socially-distanced transport options. Lime is a fantastic opportunity for that."

Ms Milner added that the trial is well-suited to Milton Keynes as the town is well known for "innovative trials of technologies". Robots have been delivering groceries there for almost two years, while doctors in Milton Keynes were among the first in Europe to use a pioneering robot for surgery.

You have to be 18 or over and have a valid driver's license to ride the e-scooters. There are also limits on where you can use them.

"E-scooters can be ridden essentially where you can ride a bike or an e-bike", Ms Milner said.

"So that means some roads, bike paths, but absolutely not on pavements."

Users are restricted to 15 miles per hour and are encouraged to wear a helmet.

"The first time, it's wonderful, I really enjoyed it, it gives you a smooth ride and I didn't feel scared", one user told ITV Anglia.

A similar e-scooter scheme is being trialled in Cambridge.

"I'm a bit concerned about pedestrians knowing that they're coming, but we've got a bell, got the brakes, so hopefully people get used to it."

Similar schemes are being trialled in Cambridge and Norwich, but there are concerns about safety. 

Last year, YouTube and television presenter Emily Hartridge became the first person in the UK to die while riding an e-scooter in London after being involved in a collision with a lorry at a roundabout.

In February, a study from the International Transport Forum found that e-scooter riders do not face a significantly higher risk of death or injury than a cyclist.

However, the Associated Press has reported that there has been at least 11 electric scooter rider deaths in the US since the beginning of 2018.

Also, researchers from the University of California found that hospital admissions involving e-scooters more than doubled between 2014-2018 in the US.

People with certain disabilities have also flagged up issues with this mode of transport.   

Keith Valentine from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said: "Obviously for blind people, walking journeys are absolutely critical, and we're concerned that e-scooters are too quiet.

Keith Valentine from the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Credit: ITV

"There's a risk if they're not docked, they could cause hazards on the pavements for people as they navigate around."

The Head of Transport Innovation at Milton Keynes Council said him and his colleagues are aware of this concern.

"We know the scooters have lights and they have noise generators in bells", Brian Matthews said. "We've worked with the companies to put metrics in place that means if a scooter is fallen over we know about it and we deal with it in a very short turnaround."

If the e-scooters prove popular, the 12-month trial could be made permanent.