AN ASSOCIATION for the blind has welcomed the conclusion of e-scooters trials in two South Somerset towns.

The scheme reached Chard and Crewkerne in March 2021 launched by South Somerset District Council and Zwings, who said the project was "concluded as arranged" in October 2021.

The National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), however, said they deem the E-scooters “unsafe” and unroadworthy” and is opposing both the trials and the use of privately owned e-scooters across the UK.

Zwings said the trial could have continued but the “very small” size of the fleets made the idea “not commercially viable”.

Sarah Gayton, street access campaign coordinator for NFBUK in the Midlands, is fighting to remove the e-scooters across the country.

She said: “We think the e-scooters are inherently dangerous and unsafe and people could easily fall off kerbs and potholes.

“They have a narrow handle and one has to concentrate extremely hard to ride them.

“Anybody who is blind or visually impaired, pensioners and children, could easily be hit. Disabled people are definitely not safe on the pavements.

“Pensioners and some children can’t get out of the way some of them ride them in an anti-social way.

“We are very pleased with the news and we think all trials should be shut down and private ones should not be made legal.

“I would like to re-confirm that the National Federation of the Blind of the UK strongly recommends keeping private e-scooters illegal to be used on the highway, for the shops to stop selling them, and for the e-scooter trials to be shut down.

“We do not believe any regulation of e-scooters will be effective and the police will never have time to enforce the legislation if the private ones are made legal.”

On the other hand, another association for the blind, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) worked alongside South Somerset District Council, Zwings, and Avon and Somerset Police in Yeovil, in December 2021, to undertake a simulation to experience being visually impaired using ‘blind sim’ goggles and white canes.

They gained a real-life perspective on what it feels like to be varying levels of sight impairment whilst walking in public areas from car parks to multi-use footpaths.

Steve Hyde, regional campaign officer for RNIB, said they “endeavour to work with the e-scooter rental operators as it is essential that we make these trials as safe as we possibly can”.

Joe Lewin, Zwings CEO and founder, said the company “have built a productive partnership with RNIB” and they are “thankful for their forward-thinking approach”.

A South Somerset District Council statement also read: “The successful fixed-term trial of the Department for Transport (DfT) e-scooter scheme concluded as arranged in Chard and Crewkerne on October 20.

"The trial had a positive impact of helping some residents and visitors transition to sustainable transportation and it was an important part of the DfT’s e-scooter trials. Data from the schemes in Crewkerne and Chard will help provide further information about how e-scooters can be safely integrated into cities and towns across the UK.

“The Chard and Crewkerne schemes had low reported incidents (according to both the police and reports sent to Zwings) amid high rates of usage. The majority of incidents that are reported involve illegal privately owned e scooters which are not allowed on public roads and therefore cannot be insured for use by their owners.

“In contrast, the Zwings e scooter rental schemes are legal and authorised by the DfT, and include cover by Zwings insurance for those using them correctly with a full or provisional driving licence.

“We would also like to reiterate again that all three South Somerset DfT authorised e-scooter schemes (Yeovil, Crewkerne and Chard) were fully funded by Zwings and have been implemented at no cost to South Somerset District Council and council taxpayers.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “Riding a privately owned E-scooter remains illegal on public land and a range of motoring offences apply.

“Safety will always be our top priority and the trials currently taking place in 31 regions across England help us to better understand the benefits of e-scooters and their impact on public space.

“We continue to engage with vulnerable road user groups to help shape the rules, on top of existing safety features - such as compulsory horns and bells - and ensuring trial areas have sufficient parking to avoid street clutter.”