Birmingham e-scooter tyres in 'shocking state' says campaigner

More than a quarter of the tyres on a sample of Birmingham’s e-scooters have worn-away tread, a campaigner has claimed.

One of the scooter tyres in Birmingham. Photo: Sarah Gayton
One of the scooter tyres in Birmingham. Photo: Sarah Gayton

Sarah Gayton of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK carried out a review of scooter tyres – inspecting 290 of the 1,200 scooters involved in the city’s trial.

She said 28 per cent (80) of the tyres appear to be not fit for purpose with tyre tread worn away from all or part of the tyre – or in 14 cases, the tyres appear to have splits on the side.

The claims have been refuted by e-scooter provider Voi – who say “nearly every vehicle’s tyres are safe and within those legal limits for rider usage”.

The e-scooter trial in Birmingham recently gained cabinet approval to be extended until the end of March 2022 and potentially further to the end of September 2022.

Papers to the city council’s cabinet state there have been 118 injuries in the city over the course of 550,000 rides taken – meaning 0.02 per cent of rides resulted in injury.

The city council is working with Transport for West Midlands – part of the West Midlands Combined Authority – on the trial.

Ms Gayton has been campaigning against the use of e-scooters on the grounds that it is unsafe for them to be used on pavements and that some examples of parking could cause hazards for pedestrians.

Her survey of tyres was undertaken by taking photographs of tyres which she and a fellow campaigner – who did not want to be named – then reviewed to check tyre quality.

She referenced the Department for Transport guidance for e-scooters which states: “Tyres may be of either pneumatic or non-pneumatic construction. The tyre shall be suitable having regard to the use to which the e-scooter is being put.

“Any pneumatic tyre shall be so inflated as to make it fit for the use to which the vehicle is being put.

“The tyre shall be maintained in such condition as to be fit for the use to which the vehicle is being put [and] not have any defect which might in any way cause damage to the surface of the road, rider or other persons using the road.”

Ms Gayton said: “Twenty eight per cent of e-scooters’ back tyres observed were in shocking state with the tread being worn away from all or part of the tyre and splits in the side of the tyres, raising serious questions over their safety for riders and pedestrians.

“Just looking at the photos taken, it can be seen that something is not right with them. It is also clear from observing people riding them, nobody is checking the tyres before jumping on to ride them.

“The back fender makes it impossible to check the safety of the back tyre before riding.”

She and fellow campaigners have now handed in a petition to Number 10 Downing Street calling of the UK trials to be halted over safety concerns.

A Voi spokesperson said renting an e-scooter is “overwhelmingly safe” as only 0.0005 per cent of 21 million rides across ten countries in the past year have resulted in a major or severe injury.

The spokesperson said: “Voi’s top priority is the safety of pedestrians, riders and other road users, which is why we committed ourselves to building a safe service together with our riders and partners.

“At Voi, we pride ourselves on having one of the safest, most robust and efficient scooter fleets in Europe. Our operations follow high safety standards, and our e-scooters have always been deemed safe following inspections by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).

“There are no legal limits for e-scooter tyre depths, so Voi adopts the much stricter rules for motor vehicles, such as motorcycles. The evidence, which was reviewed by our experts, reveals nearly every vehicle’s tyres are safe and within those legal limits for rider usage.

“Where tyres appear to have fallen below our high safety standards, either caused by usage or acts of vandalism, the e-scooters have been taken in ahead of their regular service interval to undergo further inspection by our team of highly-trained mechanics.

“Every e-scooter at Voi undergoes a comprehensive quality control test at the end of each repair, focusing on brakes, tyres and steering to ensure the major safety components are working correctly. As part of any repair, tyres are always checked against the tyre tread marker for cuts or tears to the sidewall, as well as its structural integrity, before it enters service again.

“E-scooters are a key part of the green transport revolution and can make our cities happier and healthier places by reducing air pollution and freeing up roads from traffic.”

The spokesperson added “introducing a new mode of transport comes with challenges” but said the company is “committed to providing a safe and sustainable transport solution”.

Voi has been asked how many of the 290 scooters the company believes have defective tyres and West Midlands Police has been approached for comment.

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