UK’s first e-scooter trial scaled back amid widespread misuse – including underage riders zipping through shopping centres

Riders using the new e-scooters in Middlesbrough: Tees Valley
Riders using the new e-scooters in Middlesbrough: Tees Valley

When the UK’s first ever e-scooter pilot scheme was launched in Middlesbrough last month, bosses told The Independent they hoped there would be 10,000 of the vehicles on UK roads by next summer.

That figure, it seems, may have been optimistic.

A second pilot launch in neighbouring northeast town Hartlepool has had to be abandoned amid widespread misuse of the first 50 hire vehicles in Middlesbrough.

Mounting complaints include two teenagers taking them for a spin down the 70mph A19 and underage users zipping through the northeast town’s three shopping malls.

A spokesperson the Dundas Shopping Centre, one of the malls, said there had been “near-misses” involving elderly customers.

A staff member at a second, the Cleveland Centre, told the website Teesside Live: “We have got specific signs up but the scooters come in and fly around all over – it’s crazy.”

Legislation permitting the vehicles – which can reach speeds of 12mph – was rushed through parliament by government ministers last month in an apparent bid to get more people off buses in an age of climate change and coronavirus.

Middlesbrough was chosen for the country’s first trial after Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley, pushed to have the scheme piloted on his patch.

The aim was to start with 50 vehicles in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool before building up to as many as 1,000 across the entire area, which includes Redcar, Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington.

But after plans for Hartlepool’s launch were quietly dropped, the town’s MP Mike Hill labelled the vehicles as “useful as a chocolate fireguard”.

Speaking to The Independent, he said: “Using scooters to get people off buses as a way of beating either climate change or coronavirus is farcical. It is fiddling while Rome burns. Whatever the question, e-scooters in Hartlepool are not the answer.”

Ginger, the company behind the scheme, said it was still planning to introduce the vehicles into the town at some point in the future but could not give a date.

It refused to say why the initial 15 July launch date had been cancelled.

In a statement, Paul Hodgins, the company’s chief executive and a former Conservative council leader, said: “We’ve naturally evaluated the project since its very successful launch and made further modifications we believe will improve rider and community experience ahead of our planned roll-out to other areas.”

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