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E-Scooters In Three Cities To ‘Hum’ After Safety Concerns Raised

June 14, 2021

E-scooters in three cities will be modified to make an engine-like hum to alert people to their presence.

Provider Voi said 20 scooters in each of Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool would be adapted as part of a trial to assess the impact on blind and partially sighted pedestrians.

It will also work with the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

It follows criticism from some quarters about the impact of the quiet e-scooters in trials across the country.

All Voi e-scooters are equipped with a bell, but Voi hopes the humming noise will now automatically alert other road users that an e-scooter is approaching.

However, Sarah Gayton, of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), said it would be “terrifying” and would not protect blind people.

“It will be terrifying, this being emitted all over the pavement.”

She said if a visually-impaired person heard the noise, they “would probably freeze and stand still but wouldn’t be able to get out of the way”.

Andy Street, West Midlands mayor, welcomed the latest trial in Birmingham, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

“It is great to see Voi once again learning from people’s experiences on the road to adapt and change their scheme,” he said.

“The whole point of trialling e-scooters in the West Midlands is to see how best to integrate them into our towns and cities.”

The three-month pilot will run alongside a formal consultation on the use of artificial vehicle alert systems with visual impairment organisations, local authorities and police, Voi said.

But Ms Gayton said: “It’s gone past any mitigation – the trial just needs to end. The riders are literally out of control in Birmingham. It’s just not safe in that city any more.”

Earlier this week, West Midlands Police said it was starting a month-long operation to “tackle riders who break the law and put others at risk”.

The force said the move followed complaints about inappropriate use of e-scooters. Those caught face having it seized or having their accounts to hire one suspended.

Jack Samler, general manager at Voi UK and Ireland, said: “Electric engines on e-scooters, like those on electric cars and buses, are extremely quiet, which can be unnerving to other road users.

“By adding an appropriate sound we can hopefully improve the safety of our operations for all road users, including those who are vulnerable because of sight loss.”

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