Written by Ellis Meade, Trainee Solicitor in the Neurolaw department.
This week is Road Safety Week, coordinated by the international charity, Brake. It is therefore an appropriate time to address and highlight the safety issues surrounding the use of both Boris Bikes and E-Scooters in UK cities. Ellis Meade reflects on the situation in Cardiff.
Known as Boris Bikes in some cities, Nextbike was launched in Cardiff in 2018 and following expansion into the Vale of Glamorgan, the current fleet of bikes totals 1,030. The bikes are available for hourly rent and located in hubs throughout the city. Although the scheme provides a sustainable method of transport in Cardiff and throughout many cities across the UK, it is difficult to overlook some of the issues facing Nextbike and the wider implications for road and pedestrian safety. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Nextbike has had to take the decision to temporarily suspend its operations in Cardiff, due to extremely high incidences of vandalism. Since its introduction in Cardiff in 2018, over 300 bikes have been stolen, with a further 260 being damaged beyond the point of repair.Nextbike does however, intend to restart its operations in Cardiff in due course, once security measures have been reviewed.
Putting the vandalism issue currently faced by Nextbike in Cardiff aside, it seems certain that cycling will become a more prominent mode of transport in our cities, against the backdrop of the climate crisis and the fallout from the highly anticipated COP26 Climate Change Conference. It is therefore essential that the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians is assessed, and an appropriate standard of protection enforced.
The number of deaths from bicycle incidents increased by 6% in 2019 and has rocketed by 37% in the last 10 years, from 793 in 2010 to 1089 in 2019. It is understood that males account for 88% of all bicycle deaths. Three-quarters of all fatal or serious cyclist accidents happen in urban areas, where schemes such as Nextbike and Santander Cycles are most common. The wearing of a helmet when cycling is not a legal requirement. However, were this to be the case, we would, no doubt, see a significant decline in the number of bicycle related fatalities. According to the latest figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, nearly 4,000 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in the UK in 2017. Further studies have shown that 70% of these fatalities had a moderate or severe head injury. These statistics only serve to underline the importance of wearing a helmet and bring to the forefront the obvious dangers of cycling, particularly in busy urban areas.
In recent years across the UK, trials have taken place to establish whether the use of ‘E-Scooters’ can be an effective way to reduce urban traffic and provide a sustainable mode of transport for individuals in our cities. Trials in the UK are ongoing in 55 regions. One area where the scheme has been a particular success is Bristol.
For just over a year, the Swedish scooter company ‘Voi’ has been part of a major trial of electric scooters in Bristol. The trial has recently been extended by a further 6 months by the Mayor of West England, Dan Norris. The purpose of the extension is to gather more data on the scheme and to subsequently assess its effectiveness. In relation to the environmental impact of the scheme, the statistics available at present appear to be extremely promising. It is estimated that 2.5 million scooter trips have taken place in Bristol in the past 12 months, replacing approximately 900,000 short car journeys and in the process, prevented 480 tonnes of CO2 emissions being released into the atmosphere. The scooters produced by Voi are limited to 15.5mph, something which undoubtedly eases some of the concerns surrounding their safety. This is not to suggest that the scheme has been all plain sailing in Bristol. In fact, safety issues are still very much apparent. In some cases, the impact of the Voi scheme on pedestrians has been marked, with many cases of the scooters being ridden in an irresponsible manner, as well as under the influence of alcohol. The use of the scooters is also intended to be avoided in pedestrianised areas, but this an issue which is understandably difficult to police.
In contrast to Bristol, the use of E-scooters in Cardiff is prohibited, and no such trial scheme exists. However, anyone who has visited Cardiff in recent months will have no doubt noticed that many individuals are ignoring their illegality and continuing to ride unregulated E-Scooters in the city centre. This has raised major safety concerns for both riders and pedestrians, with Cardiff being labelled as a ‘Wild West’ for E-Scooters.
Unlike the Voi scheme which regulates speed, it is likely that in Cardiff many scooters are exceeding this limit and, in the process, endangering riders and members of the public. There have been many calls for the local council to bring into force a regulated system, similar to that which exists just a few miles across the River Severn.
The silent nature of E-Scooters makes them highly dangerous to pedestrians and in particular those vulnerable and hard of hearing, who may not hear the scooters until they are extremely close, leaving them no time to act. The scooters also pose a risk to those who are partially sighted or registered blind, as guide dogs will not have received specific training in this area. There is no doubt that the issue of E-Scooters in Cardiff needs to be addressed immediately, if the streets of Cardiff are to remain a safe place for pedestrians.
- Cardiff is a Wild West for e-scooters but there is a solution – Conor Gogarty – Wales Online
- Nextbike is taking all its bikes out of Cardiff after 300 were stolen and 260 vandalised – Wales Online
- Nextbike suspends bike share scheme after rise in thefts and vandalism | ITV News Wales