Report by Kris Jepson
There are calls for an electric scooter scheme in Newcastle to be scrapped over safety concerns. Concerns have been raised about some irresponsible e-scooter riding, just a week after a pilot scheme was launched during lockdown - and Northumbria Police say they've made seven arrests in the early hours of this morning.
One of those was released with no further action to be taken. However, six men have since been charged, five of those with driving a motor vehicle while over the legal limit. The other was charged with failing to provide a specimen.
They are all due to appear at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on March 25.
Newcastle City Council says that "the majority of people" are following the rules.
There has been criticism of the way some people are riding the 15mph machines and it has caused people to call for an early end to the scheme.
The pilot, due to run for a year, has faced criticisms including a lack of social distancing when scooters are shared, people riding without helmets, near-misses with pedestrians, and someone almost being hit by a bus.
Greg Stone, a Liberal Democrat on Newcastle City Council, said it is a good idea in principle but fears it might end like an ill-fated bike hire scheme which ended with many of the cycles being dumped in the River Tyne by vandals.He said he supports schemes aimed at reducing traffic emissions, but wants reassurances that e-scooter use will be properly monitored and policed.
"I can see it's a fun novelty for people to try, but they have to interact with traffic and pedestrians," he said.
The e-scooters are currently free for NHS staff and use is limited to the city centre, Jesmond and Gosforth. They are legal on roads, and in bus and cycle lanes, and are available via operator Neuron's app for over-18s who have a full or provisional driving licence. Hire costs are £1 to unlock the scooter and 18p a minute after that.Newcastle City Council said "in the vast majority of cases" people have been sticking to the rules, and the minority who have not have been reminded they could be banned.Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: "It's great to see that the majority of people are using the e-scooters in line with the rules that they have agreed to follow and which are there to keep themselves and others safe.
"There have been a small number of incidents where people haven't followed the rules, and Neuron have taken swift action by suspending at least one irresponsible rider from the service.
"Everyone who signs up on the Neuron app is made aware of, and agrees to adhere to, the riding rules."
A Neuron spokesman said: "So far, the vast majority of Newcastle riders have behaved responsibly and the feedback has been extremely positive."