The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Fun rides or death traps?

They may not know it, but all of these people are breaking the law. Yet as e-scooters are finally set to be made legal, there’s disturbing evidence that they’ll lead to more road tragedies...

- By Holly Bancroft

THEY have been hailed as a revolution in urban transport: a cheap, fun, environmen­tally friendly way to zip around town.

But electric scooters remain illegal on the streets of Britain – not that you would know it given how prevalent they have become in our city centres.

Last week, we captured dozens of commuters whizzing around London on the battery-powered vehicles, some of which can reach speeds of 40mph.

As our photograph­s show, users seemed oblivious to the dangers: weaving between cars, trucks and pedestrian­s; many without helmets; some riding with young children; others chatting on their phones.

But even taking safety measures such as wearing a high-vis vest and protective helmet might not be enough. TV presenter and YouTube influencer Emily Hartridge had adopted similar precaution­s when she rode her e-scooter down a South London street last July. Tragically, they counted for nothing when the 35-year-old collided with a lorry and was killed.

Her death and the 31 e-scooter-related injuries recorded in London alone last year have not affected the popularity of the vehicles, with retailers reporting a 50 per cent rise in sales over the last 12 months. And Ministers are reportedly on the brink of legalising them on roads and cycle lanes after an influentia­l think-tank last week heralded them as a way of reducing air pollution.

However, other cities around the world that have legalised e-scooters are having second thoughts amid rising casualties. Paris offers a sharing scheme, similar to London’s ‘Boris bikes’, with about 20,000 e-scooters for easy hire. But the city is facing lawsuits from victims of accidents. Critics argue the 12mph speed limit and £125 fines for riding on the pavement are inadequate. Calls for a ban intensifie­d in June when a 25year-old man died riding an e-scooter on a motorway.

The number of e-scooter injuries in the US quadrupled between 2014 and 2018. In Nashville, Tennessee, where two years ago more than 4,000 e-scooters appeared almost overnight, one of the main hospitals deals with an average of almost one major traumatic brain injury each month due to e-scooter accidents.

There were threats of a ban in the city last year after physiother­apist Brady Gaulke, 26, died in a collision with a car after hiring an e-scooter at the end of a night’s drinking with friends.

His family blame Bird, a leading scooter hire firm, estimated to be worth £1.5billion.

The company is currently running a trial of e-scooters at the Olympic Park in East London and is expected to roll out thousands of scooters across the UK if Ministers lift the ban. Mr Gaulke’s mother, Heidi, is dismayed at such a prospect.

‘I would implore citizens in the UK to fight against bringing electric scooters to your country,’ she said. ‘The companies who own these scooters do not care about safety, only about the money they make.’

A Bird spokesman insisted ‘safety is at the heart of everything we do’ and that it would ‘relish the opportunit­y to help make towns in the UK more liveable’.

Lawyers in Britain are preparing for a flurry of litigation.

‘It’s almost inevitable that people will be injured by e-scooters and riders themselves will be vulnerable too,’ said Gordon Dalyell, president of the Associatio­n of Personal Injury Lawyers. Doctors also expect to see more cases.

Neurosurge­on Christophe­r Uff at the

Royal London Hospital said: ‘The patients we see who crash e-scooters have head injuries that are very similar to highspeed bike crashes.

‘The one difference is that they are usually not wearing helmets.

‘None of the patients that have come into us have died but, with the kind of head injuries they are getting, they will be looking at permanent disability or months or years of recovery.’

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 ??  ?? TRAGIC: Emily Hartridge died despite wearing helmet
TRAGIC: Emily Hartridge died despite wearing helmet

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