E-scooters will hit the streets of Kettering today

The e-scooters in Northampton.The e-scooters in Northampton.
The e-scooters in Northampton.
They have caused quite a stir in nearby Northampton

Fifty e-scooters will be dotted around Kettering from today (Thursday) after a trial which caused controversy in Northampton expanded to the north of the county.

Dozens of complaints were made and police action was even taken against one teenager after scooters in the county town were misused when the scheme launched in September, with concerns over underage riders and the dangers posed to pedestrians when they are illegally ridden on pavements.

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The problems became such an issue police, Northamptonshire County Council and scooter firm Voi held weekly meetings to discuss them with 13 people permanently banned from using the scooters within the first two months of the trial.

After a backlash some problems were ironed out with a curfew on when they can be used and a system where nuisance riders are unable to access any of the scooters.

And from today the scooters will also be available to rent in Kettering as part of a bid to help people travel without using a car, reducing congestion and pollution.

Jason Smithers, cabinet member for highways and place for Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Northamptonshire is committed to improving access to greener, more sustainable, more affordable transport for the benefit of everyone, and the Voi e-scooter partnership has been a fantastic step in the right direction for achieving this.

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“Since the launch of the e-scooters, 116,000 rides have taken place in Northampton, with nearly 70 per cent of rides carried out by repeat customers - an indication that uptake has been very successful.

"We are therefore thrilled that this new carbon-neutral, socially distanced mode of travel can now be introduced in Kettering.

"This, and any further expansions, will look to support the existing local transport network, providing alternatives to the car and public transport for shorter trips - while also working closely with local police to ensure that the rules of use are adhered to and that safety is maximised.”

The scooters will be available to rent from 4am to 11pm each day. To ride a scooter, users need to be at least 18-years-old and over, are required to download the Voi app and must have a valid driving licence.

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It costs £1 to unlock the scooter and then 20p per minute it's used. Voi also offers 24-hour (£10) and 30-day (at £40) subscriptions, allowing users to take an unlimited number of rides at a fixed rate, with discounts for students, those on low income and NHS and emergency workers.

The scooters will be cleaned and disinfected every 24 hours and are fitted with copper tape that the Swedish firm says "inactivates and minimises the transmission of coronavirus".

Speeds will be capped at 10mph with geofenced slow riding, no riding and mandatory parking areas, to ensure the safety of riders and other road users. When a user travels out of the operational zone they will be blocked, and the e-scooter will slow and stop.

Rochelle Mathieson, head of commercial and economic development at Kettering Council, said: “We are excited to see the launch of the Voi e-scooters in Kettering, following the success in Northampton, and working in partnership with Northamptonshire County Council colleagues, who are leading the pilot projects.

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"Among the many benefits of introducing this new form of transport, the initiative also provides a greener alternative for travel in and around the town, which is a fantastic resource during these unprecedented times. We hope residents and visitors to the town will benefit from this new venture.”

Cllr Mark Dearing, portfolio holder for regeneration at Kettering Council, said: “The new e-scooters delivered by Voi are an innovative, efficient and eco-friendly method of transport that we are delighted to be introducing to Kettering town.

"It is essential that during the pandemic new schemes such as this can be introduced that meet the safety needs of our residents and visitors. We encourage all users to be responsible whilst operating the e-scooters, follow the clearly defined rules and enjoy."

Voi say they will continue to work closely with local authorities address any safety concerns raised.

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Privately owned e-scooters remain illegal to use on roads, pavements, parks and any other areas. The only place that privately-owned e-scooters can legally be used is on private land with the permission of the landowner.

Only e-scooters that are hired or leased through the Kettering trial can be used legally on roads, cycle lanes or cycle tracks.