London’s e-scooter rental trial has been blasted as “fundamentally flawed” by a campaigner who observed worn, deflated and split tyres on the vehicles available to hire in the capital.
Activist Sarah Gayton, from the National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK), spotted holes, splits and underinflated tyres in Southwark, Lambeth and Vauxhall earlier this month.
Speaking exclusively to London World, she said: “To have e-scooters you legally can hire and ride on the streets of London with underinflated tyres is more than shocking.
“It’s unspeakable and unthinkable that these vehicles have these issues and users don’t know about it.
“I’m mortified to think these are on the streets with people paying for the privilege to ride a machine that is a death trap.”
It comes after a coroner ruled a lack of air in an e-scooter tyre caused the crash which killed YouTuber Emily Hartridge, who was on her way to a fertility clinic in Battersea, in July 2019.
Ms Hartridge, from Hampshire, was thought to have been the first person in the UK to be killed in a crash involving an e-scooter.
The electric scooter rental trial, run by Transport for London (TfL) and the London councils, was launched in June 2021 with vehicles provided by Dott, Lime and TIER.
Users are able to rent vehicles via apps in the boroughs of Camden, City of London, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth North, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Westminster.
The scheme is described as “the only way to legally ride an e-scooter on public roads or in other public places in London - and only in those specific boroughs”.
A spokesperson for TIER said it takes safety “very seriously” and confirmed the affected vehicles had been removed from the streets.
The firm’s tyres are designed to absorb some punctures and breaks while remaining safe.
While Lime said its vehicles undergo daily checks and encouraged users to report any issues via the app.
Ms Gayton, who is employed as a street access campaign coordinator by NFBUK, said she first became aware of concerns over e-scooter safety in other UK cities.
The Midlands-based activist, who is not visually impaired, began examining the vehicles in London from September 2021.
She said: “Right from the start of the e-scooter trials, the NFBUK said they weren’t safe for visually impaired people, and we have campaigned to halt them.
“When I started to look in London, I was shocked.”
Ms Gayton discovered underinflated tyres on Lime e-scooters in several locations around the capital, including Joan Street, in Southwark, Glasshouse Walk, in Lambeth, and Tyres Street, in Vauxhall.
She filmed and photographed the issues she spotted on Thursday, October 7, and Sunday, October 10, 2021.
She also spotted cracked and split tyres on TIER vehicles along the A23 and the B300, on the same occasions.
“I think it’s appalling,” she said.
“I pushed my finger in and they were really underinflated - they were really bouncy.
“The way they’re on the street, people could hire them - and with some of the cracks, you really have to know what you’re looking for.”
She continued: “Someone at TFL should have known this is going on. The trials are fundamentally flawed. It’s not safe to continue.
“It’s just shocking to think about the risks.”
Fred Jones, a vice-president at TIER, said: “We take all issues regarding the safety and durability of our vehicles very seriously and we welcome Sarah’s vigilance and for bringing this to our attention.
“The vehicles in question have been identified by our rangers and removed from the streets.
“We have a robust process in place to maintain the quality of our fleet, including a team of street rangers with the specific role of regularly assessing the state of our e-scooters and deactivating those that are not fit for purpose, and a team working within our warehouse to repair any of those that are damaged.
“We have worked closely with our regulator to ensure there is no risk to the public.
“Alongside this rigorous assessment process, TIER is consistently scrutinising the safety of its operations through our UK Safety Board which comprises senior independent experts in road safety, Covid risk, accessibility and visual impairment.
“Our incident rate in the UK has been very low so far, and we strive to continue to keep it this way and operate to the highest of safety standards.”
A spokesperson for Lime said: “Safety is at the heart of the service Lime offers its customers.
“Lime has safely delivered over 100,000 rides in London since the start of the e-scooter trial, using our industry-leading technology to protect riders at every stage of their journey.
“Every Lime e-scooter undergoes daily maintenance checks - including checking tyre pressure and condition - from trained Lime mechanics and our on-street patrol teams.
“Users are also encouraged to report any maintenance issue through the Lime app, and any vehicle reported is immediately made unavailable to members of the public."
Helen Sharp, from TfL’s e-scooter trial, said: "We’re determined to make sure safety is at the core of our trial, which is why we ask all operators to meet high standards of maintenance to ensure that vehicles are safe to use.
“All e-scooters undergo regular maintenance checks and also meet the standards for tyres set out by the Department for Transport.
“We take all concerns about safety very seriously and we have asked operators to look into these incidents to ensure that all vehicles available to hire continue to meet high standards.
“The vehicles in question have been identified and removed by the operators and we’d encourage members of the public to report any concerns to the operators so that safety can remain at the core of this trial."