Evaluation of E-Scooter Trials – Safety is a Big Issue

There have been many reports of fatal or serious accidents involving e-scooter riders. Are they safe or provide other benefits to offset the risks to users and to pedestrians with whom they often collide?

There have been a number of Government sponsored trials of e-scooters which are subject to specific regulations imposed on users and on the providers. There has recently been a report on the trials published by Arup (see link below) which answers some of the questions that might be asked. But it does not cover the widespread illegal use of e-scooters which are ridden recklessly, including on pavements and without the speed limit imposed on trial users, by people not registered in such trials.

The Arup report notes that based on their surveys of users e-scooters have acted as a mode of transport in-between walking and cycling in terms of average trip distance. In fact there was a large diversion from “active” travel modes of walking and cycling to e-scooter user and relatively less from private car use.

Based on analysis of STATS19 data the casualty rate is about 3 times that of pedal cyclists. That may be due to the relative inexperience of the users of e-scooters but the users also perceived them as less safe and 63% reported injuries which is a very high number.  PACTS have reported 15 deaths to date involving e-scooters and a large number of accidents involve no other parties,

One objective of the trials was “to increase the availability of low-carbon transport options” but promoting cycling or walking appear to be safer options.

There are a number of interesting detail comments from users reported in the survey. Potholes and uneven road surfaces were a common problem while technical problems such as limited battery life were frequent complaints.

In summary the Arup report provides some interesting data but it is certainly not clear that the environmental benefits offset the negative safety aspects of e-scooters. Just like the more active promotion of cycling is leading to more road casualties, so will the use of e-scooters.

Moving people from walking will provide negative health benefits and it is not at all clear that there are other significant benefits provided by e-scooters. The Government must surely look at much tighter regulation or outright bans – particularly of unregistered users – if e-scooters are to be allowed.

Arup Report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-evaluation-of-e-scooter-trials-report

Roger Lawson

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London Mayor’s Transport Strategy Failing

Transport for London (TfL) have published their latest report on Travel in London. It shows that Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy is a complete failure.

The Mayor has a target of 80% of journeys to be via active travel modes (which even includes bus journeys). But in fact the number or trips by walking and cycling was only 31% in Q3 2022. That is only slightly higher than the 27% in the pre-pandemic 2019 year.

People are still avoiding public transport because covid is still prevalent and more people have changed travel patterns to work partly from home or have flexible working hours which probably accounts for the small increase in walking/cycling. But it is clear that the overall use of active travel modes has not changed much in the last two years and any changes have been influenced more by the covid epidemic and higher taxes on private cars and higher public transport fares.

You can see the actual London mode share trends in the chart above.

The targets for active travel physical activity are not being met. The report says “results suggest that the proportion of Londoners achieving the target decreased during the pandemic, with quarterly estimates ranging from 33 to 37 per cent”.

These numbers did not stop some media reports claiming that cycling had increased by 40%. This is a complete lie based on using selective data. Cycling still only accounts for about 3% of all trips and is heavily influenced by weather conditions. The UK went through a very dry period this year but the last two months have been the exact opposite and is not in the above data.

Public transport use remains low and significantly below the pre-pandemic level which is a major problem for TfL’s finances as they rely on fare income particularly from buses. The Mayor was going to reduce the bus network to save money but has now taken a U-Turn on that idea which he will surely live to regret.

TfL are forecasting a greater shift to on-line shopping with people making fewer and more local shopping trips. They also foresee an increase in LGV trips associated with home deliveries except in central London and a drop in HGV trips due to reduced construction, general haulage and retail activity. The trend to have few private car trips in London will continue, replaced by the use of taxis, PHVs and internet shopping delivery vehicles.

Vision Zero

The TfL report also gives some data on road casualties. Here again the Mayor’s “Vision Zero” policy is not working. The figures are distorted by the reductions in vehicle traffic during the pandemic but the report says: “2021 was an unusual year with large changes in the composition of people regrettably killed or seriously injured. This was largely due to new travel patterns in the wake of the pandemic. Motorcycling and pedestrian fatalities were significantly lower by historic standards but cycling fatalities and serious injuries increased”.

The Mayor’s promotion of cycling has actually resulted in relatively small increases in cycling but large increases in KSIs involving cyclists. Cycling is intrinsically more dangerous than other transport modes but cyclists won’t listen. The Mayor is unlikely to reach the targets for KSIs in 2022.

The increase in cycling speeds promoted by cycling fanatics and supported by cycle superhighways together with increases in electric bikes and e-scooters are proving to be negative influences.

Summary

A very disappointing report showing the negative trends on mobility in London. Will the Mayor change his stance? We doubt it because his Transport Strategy was always based on dogma rather than rational analysis.

TfL report here: https://board.tfl.gov.uk/documents/s19181/Travel%20in%20London%2015%20Overview.pdf

Our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts

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Wandsworth 20 Limit Evasion and How to Object

I commented previously on the new scheme to enforce a 20-mph speed limit by the London Borough of Wandsworth – see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/10/27/a-new-money-making-wheeze-for-london-councils/

I have asked the Council to provide information on what public consultation took place on this proposal and a copy of the Traffic Management Order (TMO) used to impose it (which was not published anywhere so far as I can see). They provided the latter but were very evasive about the former even though they claim they received 23 responses. I am pursuing it further.

But I have sent in an objection to the TMO as follows and I suggest readers do the same.

To the London Borough of Wandsworth

Email address:  TrafficAndEngineering@richmondandwandsworth.gov.uk

I refer to “The Wandsworth (Prescribed Routes) (20mph Speed Limit) Experimental Order 2021”

Please note our objections to this Order for the following reasons:

1. The 20-mph limit on the roads concerned is likely to have very little, if any, impact on road casualties. I quote from a recent article in the Daily Mail: “Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, Edinburgh University and the University of Cambridge collected data on traffic collisions, casualties, driver speed and traffic volume before a 20mph limit was introduced, as well as one and three years afterwards.

Their study encompassed 76 streets in the city centre, and they compared data with that collected from nearby streets where the restrictions did not apply. Analysis showed that when compared with the sites that had retained their speed limits, a 20mph speed limit was associated with little change in short or long-term accident statistics.

Small reductions in road traffic collisions of 3 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, were observed one and three years after the policy took effect. But there was no statistically significant difference over time, the researchers said.

Similarly, casualty rates fell by 16 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, one and three years after implementation – but these reductions also weren’t statistically significant”.

2. The above evidence is similar to what the DfT reported some years ago and you can read our comments on that here: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2018/11/23/no-road-safety-benefit-from-20-mph-schemes/ . Limits of 20 mph typically only reduce traffic speeds by 1 mph which is not noticeable in practice.

3. The roads on which you are enforcing the 20 limit are inappropriate for a 20 limit. For example Wimbledon Park Road is a straight and relatively wide road which drivers will not perceive as needing a 20 limit. Is there really a road safety problem in this road?

4. The ability of the Council to enforce such a limit via the issue of PCNs rather than have police pursue a prosecution suggests the motive for the scheme is to enable the Council to collect money from fines rather than to improve road safety.

5. We have studied the relevant Acts of Parliament referred to in the TMO and we cannot see that they enable enforcement of the 20 limit in this way by Wandsworth Council. London Councils certainly have powers to enforce parking restrictions, road closures and certain other traffic offences but we do not see that this extends to 20-mph speed limits. Please point out exactly which provisions in those Acts are being relied upon.

Roger Lawson

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Holborn Gyratory Redesign and Public Consultation

The Holborn gyratory in London has been the scene of some fatal accidents to cyclists so the London Borough of Camden is proposing some changes to improve safety. But the changes proposed are somewhat trivial in nature although they are likely to reduce the capacity of the roads and hence increase traffic congestion and air pollution. There is no information provided on any modelling of traffic flows that might have been done.

The changes include the right turn lane on Kingsway northbound being changed into a right turn only into Remnant Street which is surely a bit odd.

These changes might benefit cyclists but they prejudice all other road users. More substantive changes are surely required to really solve the road safety problems in this area.

Go here for more details and to respond to the consultation:  https://consultations.wearecamden.org/supporting-communities/high-holborn-drake-street-proctor-street/

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Fines for Speeding Rising Rapidly

The Times have published an article headlined “Police veering wildly on 20 mph limit” which covers the variation in speed enforcement across the country. In London fines have been rising rapidly as the Metropolitan Police have doubled patrols in 20 mph zones and have a target to enforce against one million drivers. But in other parts of the country the number of 20 mph speeding offences in minimal.

London taxi drivers, known to be some of the safest drivers on the roads, have been badly hit particularly after the previous excess tolerance was reduced by 1 mph. The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said they had been inundated with requests for legal assistance from drivers with previously clean licences, given penalty points for breaching a 20 mph limit.

Lilli Matson, who oversees the “Vision Zero” strategy for Transport for London (TfL), is quoted in the Times article as saying “the fines went to the Treasury and no profits were taken from speed awareness courses”. This is grossly misleading. Police forces generate surpluses from such courses which they spend on all sorts of things including more cameras. See our Ampow campaign for more evidence on this at: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-awareness-courses

Comment: Having a target for offences identified and prosecuted is wrong. It incentivises the police to find offences that may have no relevance to road safety while there is no evidence that taking a speed awareness course improves a driver’s safety. It’s just another perverse attack on motorists, particularly in London pursued by TfL, where 20 mph limits are now being installed on main roads. See link below on how Vision Zero is failing to achieve any improvement in road casualty statistics mainly because there is an irrational belief that cutting traffic speed will help.

Vision Zero failing: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/20/vision-zero-failing-but-the-mayor-thinks-otherwise/

Times article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/2edd85a6-41a6-11ed-bf78-197f09550dd1?

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15 MPH Limits in London Blocked

A proposal from the City of London Corporation for 15 mph speed limits in the City have been blocked by central Government. The Department for Transport (DfT)  said it would be hard to enforce such a limit as not all cars have speedometers marked with 5 mph markings and speedometers are not accurate enough.

The City Corporation is still planning to put up 15 mph limit signs but they can legally be ignored.

Comment: This is an enormous waste of money as traffic in the City rarely exceeds 15 mph. At least someone in the DfT has some common sense. Putting up signs would not have made any difference to road safety figures.     But we still have Transport for London (TfL) imposing 20 mph speed limits on main roads in London which is slowing traffic and is totally unnecessary plus widely ignored. Driving even at 20 mph consistently is not at all easy in modern cars so it’s just another imposition on drivers by the cycling fanatics in TfL who seem to wish everyone slowed down to their speed.

There is no evidence that putting up 20 mph speed limit signs has any road safety benefit.

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New Road Safety Investigation Branch

Chislehurst Commons Incident

The Government has announced the formation of a new Road Safety Investigation Branch (RSIB) to investigate road accidents and advise on how to improve road safety.

This has been called for by the RAC Foundation and others for a long time to match the success of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch. At present road accidents are investigated by the police primarily to identify any culpability. As a result, drivers involved tend to clam up and refuse to give evidence in case they are identified as being to blame.

The new RSIB will not identify blame or liability but will anyone providing evidence to it be excluded from consideration of criminal or civil liability? It is not clear at present.

In principle the new body is to be welcomed but there is still the problem that any evidence it produces may be ignored as it is at present. For example the lack of effectiveness of 20 MPH signed only speed limits is well documented in a DfT report but local councils still promote them as a road safety measure. Dogma from the ignorant overrides the evidence.

See DfT announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-countrys-first-ever-investigation-branch-focused-on-road-safety

Roger Lawson

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The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act is Now Law

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act is now law as it has received Royal Assent. This Act includes the strengthening of police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect on the public or on access to Parliament. For example demonstrations by such groups as Extinction Rebellion have closed roads, delayed emergency services and incurred millions of pounds in costs to the police. They have also been exceedingly noisy in some cases thus creating disruption and annoyance over a wide area.

The new Act does not stop peaceful demonstrations but it will hamper the activities of extremist organisations who wish to grab attention to their cause by creating disruption. It is surely therefore a positive move to clarify and reinforce the law in this area.

There are many aspects of criminal law tidied up in this Act but one negative aspect is Clause 67 of the Bill which provides a statutory footing for the charging of fees for courses offered as an alternative to prosecution for fixed penalty offences. It gives the police discretion to offer an educational course to a motorist who has committed a low-level driving offence. This is as an alternative to a fixed penalty or prosecution and avoids liability to a criminal conviction, penalty points and higher fine.

As we have pointed out this for the first time makes it legal for the police to solicit a payment to waive prosecution and can be used by the police to raise funds – for example to generate more offences by financing more speed cameras. See https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-awareness-courses for more information.

The new Act also increases the maximum sentence for the offences of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs to a life sentence. There is also the creation of a new offence of causing serious injury by careless, or inconsiderate, driving. The offence is committed if a person causes serious injury by driving a car or other mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. But the drafting is ambiguous. What is meant by “serious injury” and it could mean that a simple driving error can result in someone being sentenced to a custodial sentence.

These changes are unprincipled in nature and should not have been made.

Government explanation of the Act: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-factsheets/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-protest-powers-factsheet

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Pedicabs/Rickshaws to be Regulated

Grant Shapps, Transport Minister, has announced that he intends to introduce regulations for pedicabs, otherwise known as rickshaws. At present they are not regulated at all and local councils have no powers to impose regulations on them – for example in the interests of road safety, the safety of passengers or to avoid a public nuisance. 

They are a big problem in some parts of London, particularly in the evening.

Mr Shapps said in Parliament that “There isn’t any legislation which accurately enables any type of licensing or regulation. It’s time – it’s high time – I know Parliament has expressed interest through a series backbench bills that for one reason or another…have not proceeded through Parliament. We will do that on Government time in the Transport Bill”.

Comment: some system of licensing is surely required and it would be a good idea to extend that to all pedal cyclists. There was a time when most cyclists used to adhere to the Highway Code but now they tend to cycle through red lights and if they are involved in an accident they just walk away knowing they cannot be traced. All users of vehicles on our roads should be traceable and insured. I would even extend it to the users of e-scooters which are proving to be positively hazardous for pedestrians with numerous reports of personal injury accidents involving them. There is very obviously a great deal of infringement of the current regulations that should stop e-scooters being used on pavements or even on roads unless they are rented as part of a regulated trial. The law is being blatantly ignored.

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Yet More Clamour Over a Minor Accident in Chislehurst

It has been reported that a pedestrian was hit by a bus at or near the war memorial junction in Chislehurst on the 8th April at 10.35 pm. This would appear to be an incident that will be classified as a “minor injury”. It has prompted renewed calls for a pedestrian phase at these lights which has been used as part of a political attack on the Bromley Council Conservative administration who recently rejected a petition on this subject.

It would be wrong to jump to conclusions over the cause of this incident until the full facts are known, but it’s worth pointing out that accidents late at night to pedestrians are often the results of alcohol consumption.

But let’s look at this issue rationally rather than emotionally.

Firstly is this location a particularly accident black spot? One can review that by looking at the Crashmap web site ( https://www.crashmap.co.uk/Search ) where you can easily see all the accidents in the area in the last few years. There are hundreds, and the nearby Chislehurst High Street is clearly an even worse problem area despite the fact that it has several pedestrian crossings which unfortunately many pedestrians ignore and choose to cross elsewhere. The same issue also arises at the War Memorial junction if you review details of the incidents at or nearby.

One of the key principles when deciding whether to spend money on road safety measures is to look at the cost/benefit ratio and where the most benefit can be obtained. There are limited funds available for road safety projects so the money needs to be spent where it can be most effectively deployed.

Looking at the past accident data is much better than relying on often ill-informed opinions on where the most danger lies. The number of minor accidents is a good pointer as large numbers indicate there is high risk of more serious injuries or fatalities (KSIs). KSIs have much higher values attached to them however you care to value them, but large numbers of minor accidents can point to where road safety budgets should be spent.

So people concerned with road safety should look at the statistical data on past accidents which they can easily do and you can obtain details of police reports on accidents (STATS19 reports) by using Freedom of Information Act requests. These provide a lot of information on the causes of accidents.

We don’t need to guess at the causes of accidents or where money should best be spent. You can estimate the benefit of introducing a pedestrian crossing for example, as against the cost; and compare it with the benefit of spending the money elsewhere. You can also calculate the possible disbenefit if traffic is delayed by a new crossing, or diverted onto minor roads.

That is what sensible councils like Bromley do. The unwise ones instead react to political clamour for simplistic solutions and as a result waste a lot of money on ineffectual solutions. You can see that in London boroughs such as Lewisham and Croydon where wide area 20 mph speed limits and speed humps everywhere have been installed at enormous cost and where the result has been a worse road safety improvement record than Bromley. Money has been wasted on ineffective solutions.

Bromley used to suffer from the busybody syndrome 20 years ago before I got involved in road safety issues. People who thought they knew best when they knew little about the science and failed to study the data.

We certainly do not want that scenario back again when money was wasted on ineffective schemes (such as the speed humps on Watts Lane/Manor Park Road).

Ignoring the advice of council officers is another failing of the busybodies. Good ones have both training and experience and should not be ignored unless there are very good reasons.

In summary, road safety decisions should not be made by amateurs, or uneducated grandstanding politicians, who have not looked at the statistical data or the causes of accidents and who are ignoring the wider implications of their decisions.

Roger Lawson

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