Bid to extend hours e-scooters can be used in Portsmouth is rejected

A request to extend the hours of Portsmouth’s rental e-scooters beyond 10pm has been rejected by the city council.
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Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the cabinet member for transport, said Voi, which operates the scheme, had asked for longer hours in line with its operations in Southampton. But he said he had refused the change and that he opposed their use late at night over fears late night rides could lead to crashes.

“We were asked but I said no,” he said at his decision meeting on Thursday (September 14) during an update on the scheme. “We have to make sure we protect people and I think that’s [longer hours] is not a good thing.”

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Under the current agreement with the city council, e-scooters can only be hired between 4am and 10pm with these hours chosen to best fit in with commuting hours and reduce the risk of them being used inappropriately.

Swedish firm Voi operates the Portsmouth e-scooter rental schemeSwedish firm Voi operates the Portsmouth e-scooter rental scheme
Swedish firm Voi operates the Portsmouth e-scooter rental scheme

But Voi has asked the city council – and Southampton City Council through the regional Solent Transport body – for the end time to be made later.

There have been calls for the scheme to be completely scrapped with opponents warning the machines are used inappropriately and risk causing harm to other road users and pedestrians. Having launched in March 2021, it is still operating under a government trial programme which has been extended multiple times, most recently until the end of May next year.

The latest figures published by the council show there are more than 73,000 “active users” in the city with 758,000 rides completed covering a total distance of two million km. E-scooters can only be used on public land under rental schemes while the government considers adding a new light vehicle class that would legalise their widespread use.

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City councillors have raised concerns about the speed at which this is being progressed by the government and industry body CoMoUK said delays were leaving the country behind the rest of Europe. But some cities are moving against rental schemes, the most notable of which, Paris, has recently banned them following a referendum in April in which 90 per cent of people opposed them. Turnout was just 7.5 per cent. Private machines can still be used in the French capital.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said there were no plans to bring in a further ban in Portsmouth.

“The genie is out of the bottle now and now that it’s out it will be very hard to put it back in,” he said. “The trial is helpful but we do need to hear from the government about what their plan is.

“We have worked closely with Voi over the course of the trial to deal with issues when they arise and the use of the docking system has prevented e-scooters being abandoned wherever people like as we see in some other cities.”