Concerns e-scooter crime in county not being recorded

By Forester Reporter   |   Reporter   |
Saturday 2nd October 2021 10:00 am
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E-scooters provided by Zwings are insured and require a driving license to ride ()

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There are concerns that police in Gloucestershire are intentionally not recording verbal warnings given to riders who misuse e-scooters and travel on pavements.

The county is currently taking part in a Department for Transport trial of e-scooters to gather evidence about their use and whether to change the legal status of these vehicles.

E-scooters are illegal to use on the public highway, although this has been suspended for the vehicles which are part of the trial.

Under the current trial, the e-scooters may be used on the road, except motorways and in cycle lanes, within the approved trial area. They must not be used on the pavement.

However, councillors say they have seen countless examples of people riding them on the pavement in Cheltenham and are concerned about a lack of crime recording by the police.

Speaking at this week’s police and crime panel chairman Jonny Brownsteen (Lib Dem, St Pauls) said: “There seems to be a big lack of clarity here in Cheltenham.

“What we are seeing is the operators Zwings are being left to enforce the rules and the police themselves are offering verbal warnings and not recording information. That seems to be more or less a policy choice.

“What’s being reported to me is that the police officers are intentionally not recording the incidents here.

“We can’t on the one hand say we need to something about unreported crimes and on the other hand say we are going to allow our police officers to not report them when they find them and allow the responsibility of enforcement to fall upon the operators of these vehicles.”

He told the panel his information came directly from the police and asked police and crime commissioner Chris Nelson what he thought was happening and what his plan was for handling e-scooters.

Mr Nelson said: “The force has put out advice to the constabulary and the public as to how they should deal with e-scooter.

“Clearly, the constabulary does not want to turn a blind eye to any law breaking.

“But it can be quite difficult actually if you are on foot trying to arrest someone who is doing something they shouldn’t with an e-scooter.”

He said if councillors come across cases where officers and constables are deliberately ignoring crime, he would be very interested to have that information.

“I don’t accept that for any crime,” he said.

“And I often hear it in regards to things like drugs, the police aren’t interested in low-level cannabis type situations or whatever, it’s not consistent with that zero-tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour.

“Whatever the reasons this may be happening, it’s just wrong.”

Deputy police and crime commissioner Nick Evans said the approach taken by the constabulary regarding e-scooters is one of engaging, educating and then enforcing.

He said he was unaware of the concerns raised by Cllr Brownsteen but would like to look into it.

Councillor Max Wilkinson (Lib Dem, Oakley) said e-scooters are a low-carbon form of travel, so it’s important that the official trial happens.

But scooters which are part of the official trial are often being used on pavements, which is against the rules and puts blind people, disabled people and other vulnerable pedestrians at risk.

“In recent months I’ve seen countless examples of pavement scooting and spoken with many people from these vulnerable communities who tell me they feel unsafe because the rules are not being enforced,” he said.

“Commissioner Nelson has said he will crack down on antisocial behaviour, so he must put an end to this form of antisocial behaviour – that means police officers must start issuing fines and driver’s licence penalty points rather than issuing unrecorded verbal warnings.

“At the moment, the approach adopted by the police means enforcement action is largely being left to the private company running the trial, which is totally unacceptable.

“Society does not expect car rental companies to fine customers who break the rules of the road, so why should it be any different for rental e-scooters?”

A police spokesperson said officers who encounter anyone behaving anti-socially on an e-scooter will respond accordingly based on the seriousness of the incident, as they do with anti-social behaviour on motorbikes and mopeds.

“This may involve a verbal warning if appropriate,” they said.

“E-scooters also fall under the Road Traffic Act, which means they are classed as a ‘powered transporter’ and riders have the same legal responsibilities as those using other vehicles.

“This means we can and will take enforcement action if the rider does not have a licence, is unfit through drink or drugs or it is thought they have committed the offence of dangerous driving.

“We have been publicising the rules around e-scooters over the last few months to encourage people to ride responsibly and would again encourage people to read these.”

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