Opposition calls out council over 'lots of unanswered questions' following extension of Voi e-scooter trials to 2024

The council has defended the extension of the scheme
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The council has defended its extension of an e-scooter trial in Northamptonshire, which is now set to run until 2024.

Voi, which currently operates e-scooters in Northampton, Corby, Wellingborough, Rushden and Higham Ferrers as well as e-scooters and e-bikes in Kettering, announced on Thursday (December 15), alongside both councils, that the scheme has been extended until May 2024, with the agreement of additional safety measures.

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The scooters, which aim to reduce carbon emissions and make public transport more accessible, were first launched in Northampton in September 2020, before the other areas followed.

The Voi trials have been extened to 2024. Cllr Emma Roberts (inset).The Voi trials have been extened to 2024. Cllr Emma Roberts (inset).
The Voi trials have been extened to 2024. Cllr Emma Roberts (inset).

According to Voi, nearly 3.2 million rides have taken place since the scheme started, removing an estimated 1.5 million car journeys. An independent report by Volterra, commissioned by Voi, also claims the scheme could benefit the county to the sum of £15 million between 2020 and 2024 as “riders are naturally gravitating towards the nearest convenient place for shopping and other activities using an e-scooter”. However there have also been a number of safety concerns raised about the scooters.

Following the news, opposition councillor Emma Roberts (Delapre and Rushmere) has said there are “lots of unanswered questions with this announcement”.

The Labour councillor said: "How can you have a four-year trial? A trial is usually a testing period, but we are not seeing evidence from the trial. Just a few high level numbers. How many of the people using the scooters are car drivers for example? How do they calculate the car journeys saved? When will the council produce data on the trial? I am not anti-scooter at all, but I am anti trials without results, reviews and without planning infrastructure too. Lots of unanswered questions with this announcement."

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Voi e-scooter scheme extended until at least 2024 across Northamptonshire
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Councillor Roberts' questions were put to WNC, which replied saying central Government asked if it can extend the trial, with the evidence gathered helping to “inform legislation”.

Councillor Phil Larratt, WNC’s cabinet member for highways, transport and environment, said: “55,000 individuals, more than a quarter of Northampton’s population, have registered with Voi and used the scooters 2.2million times since the trial began, travelling 5.3million kilometres in the process. Not all of those journeys were a direct replacement for a car journey, but we estimate just over a million car journeys didn’t take place as a result of the scooters trial, which will have reduced CO2 emissions by 505 tons.

“These headline figures are derived from the vast amount data gathered from the scooters themselves using an industry standard calculation and user surveys.

“Scooters can play a part in our long term goals to reduce emissions but they are a new category of vehicle and it is right they are considered carefully before they can be rolled out nationally.

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“Some initiatives piloted here, such as clearly visible ID plates and mandatory safety training, are now a requirement for all trials. Others like ‘end of ride photos’ to ensure they are parked considerately are also being adopted by other operators.

“Government asked if we could extend the pilot and the evidence we gather will inform emerging legislation which is expected next year 2023."

Cllr Larratt went on to remind the public that e-scooters outside of the trial are illegal to use on the public highway.

“We recognise concerns still exist within the community and we will making sure everyone’s voice is heard while the Government considers its legalisation,” said Cllr Larratt.

Voi incidents

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In the past two years of the trial there have been multiple incidents and collisions involving Voi scooters in Northampton.

Philip Jones, a 75-year-old man from Kingsthorpe, died from injuries he picked up after trying to move an abandoned scooter while on his way to Queensview Medical Centre on October 17, 2020. A coroner ruled his death as accidental.

Police also revealed earlier this year that a 21-year-old woman died in December 2021, four days after being injured in collision with a car while riding a Voi electric scooter in St Andrews Road.

In June of this year a woman in her 20s riding a Voi scooter in Towcester Road was hospitalised after colliding with a Vauxhall Mokka.

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In September, a man in his 30s was hospitalised with serious injuries after a Voi e-scooter he was riding was in collision with a car on St Andrews Road.

Also in September, dad Ashley Potter, from Little Billing, was on the way back from picking his son up from school in September 20 when his scooter's handlebars “snapped” while crossing a road in Weston Favell. He face planted a curb and smashed his teeth out.