Despite only launching escooter trial schemes about a month ago, one operator in the UK is scaling back following safety and misuse concerns.
Middlesbrough in North East England got the country’s first escooter trial last month after Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of the area, campaigned to host the pilot, The Independent reports. However, things haven’t gone as well as he’d hoped and it’s leaving a question mark over the future of similar schemes in other parts of England.
Since getting 50 escooters, supplied by mobility startup Ginger, users in Middlesbrough have been caught riding them through shopping centers frightening elderly locals in the process. Two “underage” riders were even spotted using the escooters on a dual carriageway (a 70 mph two-lane highway) at just 12 mph.
Ginger’s plan was to offer more escooters and expand its trial to include the seaside town of Hartlepool, which is about 10 miles (around 16 km) north of Middlesbrough. However, that is now on hold indefinitely.
The company had originally planned to expand its trial to the seaside town in mid-July. That date has come and gone, and there are still no escooters. The operator has not stated its reason for cancelling its July 15 launch date.
In the UK, it’s still illegal to use escooters on public roads except in specific trial areas. Riders must also hold a driving license and be over 16 years old.
I just downloaded the Ginger app and signed up to its service and at no point was I asked to prove my age or provide a driving license as part of a know-your-customer process. It’s clear there’s more Ginger can do to prevent misuse of its scooters.
SHIFT has contacted Ginger to find out more about how its customer processes, we’ll update this piece if we learn more.
Having spoken to other escooter operators vying for the UK market, they’re aware of how their devices can be misused. Two services said they are working on measures to prevent this before launching in UK.
The UK has been toying with the idea of introducing regulations to allow escooter use on roads in the country, but with the onset of coronavirus, the government fast-tracked its plans as an attempt to introduce more socially distanced transport options.
With the misuse cases, regulators and operators alike will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to prevent this from happening before further roll outs.
Ginger says that it’s still planning on rolling out to more UK regions and will also deploy docking/charging stations in the future. It hasn’t made any deadlines public.
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