Scrutiny group recommends Voi e-scooter scheme to be extended to 2026 as long as safety improvements are made

Improvements include a review of the scooter’s speed controls, restricted zones to be inspected and extended, visibility improvements and more
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West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) is set to propose stricter rules on e-scooters in the county, as residents have voiced their safety concerns and grievances with the transport service as a whole.

The current trial of Voi e-scooters is set to come to an end in May, however a WNC scrutiny group tasked with assessing the effectiveness of the scheme has made a recommendation for it to continue into 2026, on the condition that a road map of improvements is made.

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The scooters were first launched in Northampton in September 2020 and were renewed in 2022, with an aim to reduce carbon emissions and make public transport more accessible. They have also launched elsewhere in the county including Wellingborough, Kettering, Rushden, Higham Ferrers and Corby.

The Voi e-scooter scheme could be extended to 2026 if safety improvements are made.The Voi e-scooter scheme could be extended to 2026 if safety improvements are made.
The Voi e-scooter scheme could be extended to 2026 if safety improvements are made.

Some of the suggestions to crack down on inappropriate use of the scooters include:

  • A review of the scooter’s speed controls
  • Restricted zones to be inspected and extended
  • Harsher enforcement on scooters parked in key locations, such as disabled and emergency access points
  • New technology is sought to eliminate multiple people from riding together on one scooter and from driving on the pavement
  • Improvements to the visibility of e-scooters at night
  • Registration numbers on vehicles to be more visible and improving the complaints procedures

The scrutiny committee began their work at the end of last year after Labour Councillor Emma Roberts put forward a motion to evaluate and recognise the dangers of the system before it renewed. However, Cllr Roberts previously shared her discontent with the scrutiny review, saying she was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome and the “hurried” six-week time frame.

Cabinet member for environment, transport and highways, Councillor Phil Larratt, added: “Scooters are great for the users and they’re great for the environment, but there are a hell of a lot of people who don’t use them and a hell of a lot of people who are affected by them.

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“Unfortunately, it’s the idiots that ride them - not the majority, but the minority and that’s what we’re dealing with. If we’re going to go ahead and allow the scheme to continue we’ve got to put in timelines in order for [Voi] to come up with the technology.

“If they haven’t come up with the technology and installed it on all scooters within six months, let’s say, then that’s it they’re out. We’ve really got to be tight on getting these things.”

Since the scheme began, two people have died in West Northants due to incidents involving the scooters, and others have suffered injuries. Nationally, reported crashes and casualties involving e-scooters have risen each year across the 30 areas where the trials are taking place.

Other concerns that the opposition raised were the policing of underage and drink-driver users, poor parking of e-scooters on public pathways, and the effectiveness of Voi’s complaints procedure and their ability to identify who is riding their scooters at any given time.

The cabinet considered the proposals made by the scrutiny group on Tuesday, March 12. The final decision on the continuation of the scheme will be made in May 2024.