E-scooters are set to be legalised this year, with supporters touting them as an efficient and environmentally-friendly way of getting around.
Detractors have concerns about the safety for people riding them, and there is evidence that they can be quite dangerous for riders themselves. But what about their impact on the blind, and other people with bad eyesight?
Peckham man Alun Parker, who has been mostly blind for over a decade, said one of the biggest problems was e-scooters riding on the pavement, which is illegal.
“You can’t hear them, they come whizzing past you and they cut you up, it makes you jumpy and you’re not expecting it.
“It’s the speed of them – with that speed on, it’s about as fast as a Honda 50 [motorbike].”
The e-scooters in the Transport for London (TfL) trial go up to 15.5mph, but some private e-scooters claim to reach speeds of 40mph.
Alun hasn’t been knocked over by e-scooters but has had “a couple of close scratches,” he said. “They just whizz off. By the time I get my phone out to take a picture they’ve already gone.”
The government said earlier this month that it would make legalising and regulating the use of e-scooters a priority for 2022 in the Queen’s Speech, the government’s programme of laws it wants to pass in the year.
Despite only Transport for London (TfL) hire scooters being legal to use on public roads, lots of different e-scooters can be spotted on London streets and pavements, and only in certain parts of the capital – including Southwark. Separate to the government’s plan to legalise e-scooters, the TfL hire trial was extended recently until November this year.
Alun, who walks with a cane, said: “I’d rather they not legalise them, I’d rather they do away with them. I know it’s a good idea for people to travel around, but they’re not considerate.
Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem deputy chair of the London Assembly transport committee, called for strict regulation for e-scooters, like speed limits and better safety measures.
And Alun said: “If they are going to legalise it it should be done properly I suppose.
“I know the world’s going to progress. But it doesn’t help the rest of us. I’m not too disgruntled, I suppose if I was fully sighted myself I would use them.”
Another problem for people with sight problems is people leaving e-scooters and hire bikes lying on the pavement, Alun said. “They leave them lying around. I just can’t see them. The bikes are worse, they just dump them everywhere.”
He added that bus stops separated from the road by a cycle lane “don’t help at all.”
Alun said: ” Some of them there aren’t crossings on, also the scooters often don’t have lights on of a night-time, so you feel like you’re taking your life in your hands.”
Alun, who worked in Sainsbury’s for 35 years, said that losing much of his sight as an adult has had a huge effect on his life, and that sadly some people do not treat his disability with respect.
“Walking around has its difficulties. People have sometimes grabbed hold of my stick for example.
“When I’m in the shop I get my magnifier out [to look at items on shelves]. People have put their hand on my stick to move me out of the way. When you get to the till, people brush in front of you. On buses, people all jump on in front of you.”
Tina Johnston, who runs services for elderly people, including people with visual impairments, at the Blackfriars Settlement community centre, said she was worried about incidents with her charges, but that none had happened so far “thank God.”
“The danger is maybe they might not be quick enough to stop [if a scooter were coming towards them]. That worries me. The bus stop is in the middle of the road. These little things niggle me and worry.”
The Royal National Institute of Blind People shares Alun’s concerns. A spokesperson for the institute said earlier this month: “E-scooters are fast-moving, operate quietly, making them difficult to detect, and are often ridden on pavements despite rules prohibiting this.
“Because of this, they pose particular risks for blind and partially sighted pedestrians.”