E-scooter trial issues thrashed out in four-way stakeholder meeting

Photo of Voi e-scooters blocking a path.
Voi e-scooters blocking a path between Sherbourne Avenue and Baileys Court Road.

The coral/orange-coloured rental e-scooters that first appeared on the streets of the Stokes in February have certainly divided opinion, with one commentator likening them to Marmite – “You either love them or hate them”.

Those in the former camp see the e-scooters as being ideal for short trips around town, such as commuting between home and a workplace, either for the whole journey or for getting to a transport node such as a railway station or bus stop.

The loathers complain about inconsiderate parking of the e-scooters, under-age riding, inconsiderate and/or dangerous riding and illegal use on pavements.

In response to complaints from local residents, Bradley Stoke Town Council has been pushing for a meeting with representatives from the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), which is leading the local trial; Voi Technology Ltd, which provides the rental scooters; and South Gloucestershire Council (SGC), which has oversight of the scheme in our area.

The meeting finally took place on 25th May, when town clerk Sharon Petela set the scene by stating that while the town council is “always keen to see innovative ideas in projects in the town”, it felt that there had been “poor communications over the project since the start”.

She continued: “If proper consultation involving all stakeholders (including parish and town councils) had taken place prior to the introduction of the Voi scooters into South Gloucestershire, many of the problems and negativity could have been addressed beforehand, rather than constantly playing ‘catch-up’ since the scooters arrived.”

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Scooter parking

Town councillors commented that many of the designated parking locations for the scooters are “inappropriate”, and the council does not have an overview of where these are in the town. They added that the apparent dumping of scooters on verges and footpaths is “making the town look untidy”.

Voi representatives explained that users can only park the scooters in designated locations, and that they did do some site visits and reviews (in conjunction with SGC) at the start of the project. They have also spoken to equalities groups in respect of siting drop-off/parking zones. They said that they can give the town council visibility of the parking locations to get input into suitability and appreciate discussions with the town councillors as they are the “local experts”. They added that plans are afoot for SGC to implement some physical infrastructure at parking locations (see statement below).

A parking cap at each parking location (to limit the number of scooters per site, so if a bay is full, the user will have to find another designated zone to end their ride) is currently in development.

Photo of a dumped e-scooter lying at the side of a footpath.
A damaged Voi e-scooter dumped on a footpath near Braydon Avenue.

Scooters which are left outside of designated parking areas (whether through neglect or running out of battery) are automatically flagged for a ‘pickup and repark’ task by teams on the ground, on a daily basis.

Misuse of scooters

Responding to concerns over the use of the scooters whilst under the influence of alcohol, Voi stated that, after 8pm, hirers must undertake a reaction time test through their smartphone app before commencing a ride. They added that the scooters cannot be ridden between midnight and 6am.

Councillors raised concerns about the fact that the scooters are silent and so pedestrians do not hear them coming – Voi said they are looking into installing a mechanism to produce a ‘humming’ sound in the scooters.

On the subject of under-age use, a written reply from Weca pointed to the account setup procedure which requires hirers to upload an image of their driving licence along with a ‘selfie’ photo. Voi deploys ‘ambassador teams’ to areas where anti-social behaviour (including under-age riding) has been identified as a concern. Where users are found to engage in under-age riding, the hirer’s account will be deactivated.

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SGC statement

We review parking locations before they are implemented to identify any safety concerns or issues, such as the locations being on private land. If we receive queries or complaints relating to a current parking location then we raise these with Voi and if appropriate, make amendments, or remove the E-scooter parking location if necessary.

As part of the trial, Weca, the local authorities and Voi wish to implement some parking infrastructure which will include physical parking racks and painted parking bays to mitigate any e-scooter clutter and increase the tidiness of the vehicles when parked. The review of these locations has now been completed and we hope for the infrastructure to be implemented later this summer.

It is hoped that the implementation will lead to improved parking of the trial e-scooters and this will benefit both users and local communities as a result of the vehicles being parked more tidily. These e-scooter parking locations will also increase the visibility of the parking locations and especially for those who may not currently be aware of the locations. We must remain conscious that at present the e-scooter trial is not currently a permanent scheme, so any infrastructure needs to have the potential to be removed.

• The new Weca mayor Dan Norris says he would like to see the Voi e-scooter trial extended in order to make a “proper and informed decision” on the future of this and similar schemes.

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More information and related links:

How to report issues

Voi’s support channels for the general public to report incorrectly parked scooters or for any other questions or concerns are:

General feedback about the Weca trial should be directed to: escootertrial@westofengland-ca.gov.uk

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 4 & 5). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

Addendum: Additional responses from SGC

Added 26th July 2021.

Note: The following responses could not be included in the original magazine article due to a lack of space.

Scooter parking

In addition to the physical parking infrastructure Voi also has a number of ways to influence user behaviour. These include parking compliance where user must provide a photo at the end of the ride to show the location that it has been parked and the photo is then reviewed, with users potentially receiving fines for poor parking.

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Adjustment of ‘no ride zones’

In late February, following the launch of the trial in Patchway, Filton, Stoke Gifford and Bradley Stoke, South Gloucestershire Council and Weca received a number of concerns from residents of Stoke Gifford Retirement Village and as a result the operator Voi swiftly implemented a slow speed zone within the vicinity of the retirement village.

In addition, following contact with a number of town and parish councils within South Gloucestershire, a number of areas of land were removed from the hop-on, hop-off trial operating area with the land being owned or maintained by Bradley Stoke Town Council or Stoke Gifford Parish Council. We appreciate the support from the town and parish councils for providing information on the locations which are listed below.

Bradley Stoke Town Council land

  • Baileys Court Activities Centre and play area
  • Brook Way Activities Centre and play area
  • The Jubilee Centre
  • Beacon Playscheme
  • Paddock Close play area
  • Foxborough Gardens play area
  • Rosemary Close play area
  • Bradley Stoke Skate Park

Stoke Gifford Parish Council land

  • Little Stoke Playing Fields
  • BMX track
  • Meade Park
  • Forty Acres
  • Trust Grounds, North Road
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Aztec West Business Park

At present it is not possible for users to ride through or park a Voi E-scooter within the Aztec West Business Park and this has not changed since the trial expanded into South Gloucestershire on 10th February. This is because the operator must reach a private land agreement with any landowners where the land is not public highway or either owned or maintained by South Gloucestershire Council.

Voi has approached the facilities management company for Aztec West Business Park, providing information and held a meeting in late April and we are currently waiting for a decision from the company to enable usage within the business park.

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