If you’ve been in Newcastle city centre over the past fortnight you’ll likely have seen people whizzing around on the new e-scooters which are available to rent.
The orange Neuron scooters arrived in Newcastle for a 12-month trial on February 16. They are available to hire for journeys around Newcastle city centre, Jesmond and Gosforth, as part of a UK Government approved trial. There are 250 of the vehicles in Newcastle, with more set to arrive.
It costs £1 to unlock a scooter, with an 18p per minute charge to use and they are booked using Neuron’s app.
Like the ill-fated Mo-bikes – which were pulled from Newcastle after less than two years – the scheme has its critics. A councillor has complained about the vehicles being ‘ dumped’ across the city and there have been reports of 4am ‘ racing’ on Sandyford Road.
But Neuron is confident that it can easily catch people who misuse the scooters, while there are incentives for users to leave their vehicles in designated areas and Neuron sets speed limits for use in different zones.
A spokesperson from Neuron said: “So far, the vast majority of Newcastle riders have behaved responsibly and the feedback has been extremely positive. We are pleased that people are choosing e-scooters, however we encourage only those that need to travel to use them.
“All of our riders sign up to a comprehensive list of riding rules before they are allowed to take their first trip. These highlight that the need to be over 18 and that only one person is allowed on an e-scooter at a time and they give guidance on where e-scooters can be ridden and parked.”
In just over two weeks, more than 10,000 trips have been made on the e-scooters. Neuron says the vast majority have been safe, but last week Northumbria Police made arrests and charged five young men with driving a motor vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit. Another man was charged with failing to give a specimen.
Fears that people may attempt to book the scooters while intoxicated led to a new rule change which means the scooters will be disabled between 11pm and 5am.
A Neuron spokesperson added: “All of our riders sign up to a comprehensive list of riding rules before they are allowed to take their first trip. They highlight that they need to be over 18, have a driving licence, and that only one person is allowed on an e-scooter at a time. The rules are clear when it comes to not riding under the influence of alcohol or other substances, and of course they get guidance on where and how to park and ride.
“The riding rules appear in the app that riders see at the start of every trip, plus there’s voice guidance to remind people of some of the key points, and even stickers on the e-scooters with the main dos and don’ts. We also have Safety Ambassadors on the ground in Newcastle reinforcing the riding rules and passing on safety guidelines.”
“In the early days of a trial it is important to see how the e-scooters are being used and to understand what is working and what can be improved. We are working closely with Newcastle City Council and have already quickly adapted the service and will be making further improvements to ensure that e-scooters can integrate into the city in the best, and safest, possible way.
“An example of this is that we have already put in place a citywide curfew that will immobilise all of our e-scooters between 11pm and 5am throughout the lockdown. All of our e-scooters are ‘connected’ and we can turn them off remotely so this is straightforward to implement. We are also continually evaluating our slow zones and no-go zones and we will adapt these over time based on feedback from riders and the wider community.”
How can I book an e-scooter in Newcastle?
Single trips will cost £1 to unlock the e-scooter and 18 pence per minute after that. Three-day, weekly and month passes are available too, which allows for 90 minutes of rides every day.
Where can I ride an orange e-scooter in Newcastle?
Currently, the scooters only operate in parts of Newcastle city centre, Jesmond, Shieldfield, Sandyford and Gosforth. The scooters deactivate if riders attempt to take them further.
There are also ‘no-ride’ zones within the operation area, including Northumberland Street.
Riders can use the scooters on roads with a 30mph or lower speed limit, bike paths and bus lanes. They must not be ridden on pedestrian-only pavements.
What times can I use the e-scooters?
Initially, the scooters were available to book 24 hours a day, but following arrests made last week, a new restriction means they will be unavailable to use between 11pm and 5am.
How old do you have to be? Can kids and teenagers hire e-scooters?
Riders must be at least 18 to book and ride on a Neuron e-Scooter and hold a full or provisional driving licence. UK full and provisional licences are accepted, as well as full driving licences from many other countries.
Can the e-scooters be left anywhere?
The scooters can be parked in most areas within Neuron’s ride zone, aside from a handful of specific no-parking areas such as the Town Moor and Jesmond Dene Road.
The company has designated a number of main parking locations such as Central Station, Metro stops, the Freeman and RVI hospitals, and John Dobson Street.
Riders can get a 30p discount on their journey if they park in those areas rather than leave their scooter at random locations, but it is not compulsory to do so.
Newcastle City Council, Neuron, and Northumbria Police confirmed in a joint statement on Friday afternoon that no-parking zones “are being reviewed” – as are slow speed and no-go zones that are also controlled remotely through the scooters’ geofencing technology.
I’ve seen two people riding on one e-scooter, can riders have passengers?
No, giving people ‘backers’ or riding two to a scooter is against the rules. Using the scooters for ‘racing, tricks or stunts’ is banned too.
How fast can the e-scooters go? Is there a speed limit?
The scooters have a top speed of 15mph, although in some areas it is automatically lowered. The vehicles have two gears, the first limits at 10mph, the second at 15mph.
How does Neuron make sure people are using the e-scooters safely?
The scooters are GPS connected and the trips are all logged. As riders must download the app to use the scooters, and prove their identity, Neuron is confident it can identify rule breakers. Neuron says it warns customers first, but repeat and serious offenders are banned.
Neuron says: “We generally warn people and try to educate them further, but we can also suspend their accounts if they have been riding dangerously or if they continually break the rules. Ultimately we’re committed to providing a safe, convenient and fun service for our users but also for the general public.”
Do riders have to wear a helmet on the e-scooters?
Neuron supplies a helmet with every scooter and encourages riders to wear them by offering a discount on fares when customers can prove with a selfie that they’ve worn the helmet.
But, although use of the helmets is strongly encouraged, riders do not legally have to wear them.
The Department for Transport states : “You should wear a cycle helmet when using an e-scooter. Helmets are recommended but are not a legal requirement.”
What are the rules for using mobile phones and listening to music while riding an e-scooter?
Neuron’s and the Government’s rules for e-scooter use state that riders should not use mobile phones while using the vehicles.
“You may use a screen to display navigation information, but this must be set up prior to setting off,” the Department for Transport says.
Riders must also not use headphones, earphones, earbuds, a headset or any other listening device while travelling on a scooter, according to Neuron’s rules.
Do drink driving laws apply to e-scooters?
Yes, be warned. If you have drunk alcohol, avoid hiring a scooter. The laws are the same as for driving a car, and Northumbria Police have already charged e-scooter riders with drink driving offences.
The Government rules on e-scooters state: “You should not ride an e-scooter while drunk or otherwise intoxicated – you may be prosecuted under drink or drug driving laws as careless and dangerous driving offences also apply to users of e-scooters.”
How does insurance work?
E-scooters count as Neuron includes insurance costs in the rental price, so riders are covered.
E-scooter riding tips
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has a list of tips for safe e-scooter use.
- Before you start off, take out any earphones;
- Wear some bright clothing to make yourself more visible to others;
- Put your helmet on properly – this means fitting the chin strap and securing it so that the helmet doesn’t wobble around and fits across your forehead, not on the top or back of your head;
- Think about your ability to ride in bad weather e.g. heavy rain, lightning storms, hail, very windy conditions, through large puddles, heavy snow, and icy conditions;
- Check behind you before setting off; if you are OK to ride, look over your right shoulder and if it is safe to do so, move off;
- Place both hands on the handlebars and keep them there until the end of the journey;
- Look at the roadway ahead, not at the scooter itself, this sounds obvious but people can struggle with this, especially at slow speeds; Always ride so that you can avoid obstacles and items in the road e.g. potholes, broken drains, litter etc;
- Please don’t use the scooter for racing, tricks, stunts, or in any other manner other than for personal transport;
- You must follow all applicable traffic rules, and any other relevant laws and regulations, you can be fined or prosecuted, the same as if you were riding a motorbike or driving a car – you can get points on your license if you are really bad!
- Remember to park correctly and safely. Even though the scooters are bright orange, e-scooters are new to our streets and partially-sighted people may struggle to identify you. Guide dogs may take a while to understand how to communicate what to do with their human when they see one, so please be very considerate;
- Turning right on a busy road could be the most complicated thing that you might have to do safely. If in doubt, pull in, get onto the pavement and cross the road as a pedestrian.