Portsmouth politicians 'concerned' over underage riders on Voi e-scooters

SENIOR Portsmouth politicians have said they are ‘increasingly concerned’ about youngsters illegally riding e-scooters in a trial in the city.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 4:55 am
Voi e-scooters. Picture: Eric Eddles

Technology firm Voi’s scooters have been available throughout the city since March after the company won a contract from Portsmouth City Council – with 230,000 miles travelled so far on them.

But council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and transport chief Lynne Stagg have both raised concerns.

A decision has now been taken to stop any further docking stations being installed until they are satisfied.

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Cllr Vernon-Jackson told The News: ‘You’re meant to be able to get them if you’re an adult and you’ve got a driving licence

‘We have seen too many children riding on them and I don’t think the DVLA are giving driving licences to eight-year-olds – so we have quite a lot of concerns.’

Complaints from members of the public about some of the 23,000 registered riders are being met with ‘platitudes’ from Voi, Cllr Stagg said.

She added her own list of concerns were not met with a response - and without this the company could not expand.

Cllr Stagg said: ‘I’ve said I don’t want any more put in until we get these answers – obviously it takes a while to get new racks put in.

‘I said they can go along (with applications) but don’t put them in until we get answers.’

She added: ‘People when they’re phoning up (to complain), they’re not getting satisfactory answers - it’s platitudes, it’s such a pain.’

Cllr Stagg said she has asked Voi to increase the size of the 15mph vehicles’ registration number so any rogue riders can be reported more easily.

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But she said she remains in ‘full support’ of the trial as those vehicles are safety checked - unlike illegal privately-owned e-scooters.

She fears ‘lots of complaints’ about children riding Voi e-scooters is a result of parents going through the ID and photo checks - then passing them over.

‘The number of complaints is relatively small considering the number of scooters around but that’s not the point,’ she said.

Voi UK policy chief Matthew Pencharz said underage use was taken extremely seriously but is rare – with a user facing a ban and police action.

Riders must be 18 with at least a provisional licence to use the trial e-scooters.

Mr Pencharz said his team is working with the council, police and community to ‘to act as quickly as possible to address legitimate concerns and make improvements’.

He added: ‘Through our close relationship, Voi launched the scheme with parking racks for all its e-scooters and in-person ambassadors to educate riders and enforce responsible riding - unlike privately-owned e-scooters.

‘As a result, we have seen complaints halve despite an increase in utilisation and our rates of parking compliance in Portsmouth are some of the highest in any market. Voi’s ambassadors continue to issue strikes to minimise misuse and anti-social behaviour.’

The vehicles are ‘incredibly popular’ and the ‘service will mature as the trial continues,’ Mr Pencharz said.

Voi estimates 35,000 short car journeys have been replaced, saving 24 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Less than one per cent of rides are complained about, the company said.

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