I know the Government has recognised the potential of electric scooters for some time. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and as part of the most ambitious regulatory review of transport laws in a generation, the Department for Transport had begun looking into the true benefits and costs of electric scooters. Then, as social distancing on public transport became a necessity, ministers accelerated and expanded planned trials of rental electric scooters in selected areas of the country.
I appreciate that people with disabilities, especially those who are blind and visually impaired, can be greatly more affected by some of the negative impacts of electric scooter use. It is important the streets of Mid Sussex are as accessible as possible, and I welcome that the Department for Transport has carried out a preliminary assessment of the impacts of e-scooters on those who are visually impaired
While there is currently limited evidence available, the current trials have been designed to enable the Government to gather robust and comprehensive evidence of the impact of e-scooters on all road users.
I have been made aware of Guide Dogs' latest research and I will speak with ministerial colleagues to ensure they are aware of this work as they continue to evaluate the evidence gathered on e-scooters, their use and impact.
Nevertheless, please be assured that I will continue to engage with local authorities to ensure they engage with local groups that represent the interests of disabled people before submitting a proposal to hold a trial in order to allow concerns to be raised and, where possible, mitigated before trials commence. I understand that the Department has rejected proposals where this engagement has not taken place. I have also been advised that officials have also engaged with a range of key stakeholders, including representatives from Guide Dogs, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the National Federation of the Blind of the UK.
As the trials continue to run, the Department for Transport has considered the possible implications for visually impaired people, and have attempted to minimise these through measures such as not allowing e-scooter on pavements and asking local authorities to consider in their trial plans ways to avoid e-scooters creating an obstruction when not in use. Following consultation last year, the Department now requires all e-scooters used in trials to have a horn or bell so that users can make others aware of their presence and have also asked operators to develop more robust geo-fencing to tackle pavement riding and other anti-social behaviour.
Any future rules for e-scooters may not be exactly the same as the rules in trials but they will be based on the evidence gathered. Please be assured that I will continue to monitor this issue closely.