The company behind Liverpool’s e-scooters have maintained that the vehicles are safe to use after concerns were raised.
Wirral councillor Tony Cox referred to the scooters as “orange death traps” with some people claiming they have seen the scooters “abandoned” in the middle of the pavement, blocking paths and driveways, and potentially causing inconvenience for those with disabilities.
A spokesperson for Voi, the company behind the scheme, insist they are doing all they can to enforce proper use. They told JMU Journalism: “In order to ride a Voi shared e-scooter, you need to be over 18 years old and have at least a provisional driving licence.
“We work with a third partner company called Onfido to verify the user identity. E-scooters are classified as motor vehicles, therefore users need to comply with traffic regulations. For instance, it’s illegal to ride an e-scooter on the pavement. The use of helmets is not mandatory. However, Voi advises all its users to wear helmets and provides free helmets to the Voi monthly pass users.”
The company also added that, unlike private e-scooters which have no speed limit, their devices are capped at 12.5mph, just below the 15mph recommendation from the Department for Transport. They are also able to ensure rider and other road user safety through the use of ‘geofencing’ – a technology that allows them to create ‘no ride’, ‘slow ride’, and incentivised parking areas. The zones are created in “close collaboration” with Liverpool City Council and adjust the scooters’ speed according to their location.
The spokesperson said: “If a scooter reaches a no-ride zone, its speed will reduce gradually to 3 mph (walking pace).
“In a slow-ride zone, the scooters’ speed is capped at 5mph. The e-scooter will automatically adapt the speed as it enters a different zone and users can see their locations and operating zone on the map provided in the Voi app.”
The company also stressed that improper use would not go unpunished, adding: “Voi also works closely with the local police and has ambassadors on the ground to monitor the e-scooter activity. Users who do not comply with the e-scooter usage guidelines can be blocked and won’t be able to use the Voi scooters anymore.
“Voi also invests in rider education, and we were the first e-scooter company to launch a digital traffic school exclusive dedicated to e-scooters. We encourage and incentivise our users to take the RideLikeVoila online school, where they can learn how to ride a Voi scooter safely.”
Despite some concerns, the trial scheme continues to be well received by the local population. Voi said they have gained over 43,000 users since the beginning of the trial in October, with around 280,000 rides taken and more than 715,000 km travelled overall in the region so far.
The spokesperson said: “E-scooters have proved to be a lifeline during the pandemic. They offer an outdoors and socially distanced mode of transport, which many people have been using in the region to go on their essential journeys.”
The company also wish to give back to the community, adding: “ So far in Liverpool, we have 1,200 users under the Voi 4 Heroes program and over 22,689 free rides were taken by NHS staff/Emergency Service Workers. This week, we have announced discounted rides to vaccination sites to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
“Overall our goal is to replace short car trips, giving people a flexible, accessible, and carbon-neutral mode of transport, reducing congestion and pollution, and creating better cities to live in.”