I appreciate that people with disabilities, especially those who are blind and visually impaired, can be more greatly affected by some of the negative impacts of electric scooter use. It is important that our streets are as accessible as possible, and I welcome that the Department for Transport has carried out a preliminary assessment of the impacts of e-scooters on blind people. While there is currently limited evidence available, the current trials have been designed to enable the Government to gather robust and comprehensive evidence of the impact of e-scooters on all road users.
Local authorities must engage with local groups that represent the interests of disabled people before submitting a proposal to hold a trial, to allow concerns to be raised and, where possible, mitigated before trials commence. I understand that the Department have rejected proposals where this engagement has not taken place. Officials have also engaged with a range of key stakeholders, including representatives from: Guide Dogs, the RNIB, and the National Federation of the Blind of the UK.
As the trials continue to run, the Department has taken into account the possible implications for visually impaired people, and have attempted to minimise these through measures such as: not allowing e-scooter on pavements, and asking local authorities to consider in their trial plans ways to avoid e-scooters creating an obstruction when not in use. Following consultation last year, the Department now requires all e-scooters used in trials to have a horn or bell so that users can make others aware of their presence, and have also asked operators to develop more robust geo-fencing to tackle pavement riding and other anti-social behaviour.
I will continue to monitor this situation closely, and will pass on your concerns to my Ministerial colleagues in the Department for Transport.
The Way Forward is Public Transport Campaign
I can assure you that the Government is committed to improving public transport links and encouraging the public to increase its use of public transport as part of its commitment to reaching net zero emissions.
While decarbonising private vehicles is a key part of the Government's net-zero strategy, I recognise that encouraging people to opt for public transport rather than cars will also be vital in helping to achieve this. I therefore welcome that in the Ten Point Plan, the Government committed to delivering £5 billion of investment in buses, cycling and walking during this parliament.
In recent weeks, the Government has launched ambitious strategies to improve both buses and railways across our country – making them easier to use, more comfortable and better value for money, to encourage more people onto public transport.
The new National Bus Strategy, for example, is the most ambitious shake-up of the bus sector in a generation, which will see lower, simpler flat fares in towns and cities, creating cheaper bus services. Backed by £3 billion, this Strategy will deliver better, more reliable bus services for passengers, strengthening communities and sustaining town centres across the country.
You may be interested to know that the Government will soon publish its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, setting out how we will further reduce emissions and ensure that we are able to meet our ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050.