E-scooters will present a “genuine threat” to blind and partially-sighted people when they are legalised on Britain’s roads from Saturday, it has been claimed.
Eleanor Southwood, who chairs the Royal National Institute of Blind People, told MPs on the Commons Select Committee that guidelines being introduced are not enough to ensure safety.
Regulations enabling trials of rental e-scooters will come into force on Saturday, and the first schemes are expected to be launched next week.
These are being held for 12 months to assess whether the devices reduce motor traffic and what impact they have on the safety of users and those around them.
Ms Southwood said: “The contribution of e-scooters to modal shift and active travel is not very clear.
“I think, from our perspective, it’s really clear that even with all of the safeguards, we do consider e-scooters to be a real and genuine threat to the ability of blind and partially-sighted people to move around independently and safely.”
Dr Rachel Lee, policy and research manager at charity Living Streets, told the committee: “We have serious concerns at the safety of e-scooters for pedestrians.
“They could be useful in a future testable system but … our infrastructure currently is not up to that job. I would want to see the infrastructure improved to a level of the Netherlands, France and other places where they have good cycle safety, segregated routes and so on.
“Then you could clearly see where these e-scooters would go. At the moment I just fear that people who are using these for the first time are getting scared on our busy roads and then jumping up on the pavement.
“Before you know it, someone who’s vulnerable, elderly, maybe can’t see, or even children, are being knocked over by someone going at quite a speed.
“Here, we’ve got vehicles capable of 15mph so it’s a big unknown and we need information, but it’s quite a risk as well,” she added.