‘Idiot’ teenagers stopped after riding Middlesbrough’s new e-scooters down dual carriageway

'Sheer stupidity,' says mayor after two youngsters spotted doing 12mph on 70mph highway

Colin Drury
Friday 17 July 2020 17:58 BST
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 Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen and Paul Hodgins, chief executive of Ginger launch e-scooter scheme
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen and Paul Hodgins, chief executive of Ginger launch e-scooter scheme

When the UK’s first e-scooter trial launched in the Tees Valley this week, a local MP warned that the green car-alternative might not take off in the North East.

“I don’t envisage people here zipping to work down the A19 on scooters,” Mike Hill joked to The Independent.

It seems he was partially wrong.

Two teenagers have been stopped by police while two-wheeling it along the busy 70mph dual carriageway near Middlesbrough.

The youngsters were branded “idiots” by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen who has thrown his weight behind what many consider a controversial scheme.

“Nobody would dream of cycling or riding a skateboard on a motorway, but it would seem that there will always be some idiots that need protecting from themselves and no amount of planning can anticipate such sheer stupidity,” he said, adding that the youngster’s actions were illegal.

Yet it is not entirely clear what, if any, laws were broken.

Although terms of use say the e-scooters - which travel at a maximum 12mph - should not be ridden on roads with speed limits above 40mph, it is not thought that breaking those conditions would constitute a criminal offence.

Crucially, legislation legalising the two-wheelers this month - rushed through parliament in a bid to get more people off buses in an age of Covid-19 - does not appear to rule out riding on A-roads as long as the vehicles themselves are part of a hire scheme and not privately owned.

Reacting to the revelation of the A19 journey, Mike Hill, who represents Hartlepool, said: “The feedback we’re already getting is that a lot of people feel these things zipping about are creating a nuisance. Police are telling us they’re getting a lot of anti-social behaviour complaints related to them.”

Even before launch, many said the scooters would lead to cluttering of pavements and be a hazard to blind and partially sighted people and those in wheelchairs.

But Paul Hodgins, chief executive of Ginger – the company running the Tees Valley scheme – insisted that the first five days of the pilot had been positive.

He said: “The trial is performing well and we'll continue to work closely with all regional partners during this test phase to ensure riders are aware of their responsibilities to themselves and other road users.”

Some 482 journeys have been taken on the 50 scooters since they were launched in Middlesbrough on Monday. A proposed launch of 50 more vehicles in Hartlepool appears to have been delayed.

Temporary Superintendent Graham Milne, from Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “Hiring e-scooters may seem like a bit of fun for some, but they’re not toys. They can only be hired and ridden by holders of a valid driving licence and anyone found to be driving irresponsibly can have their driving licence endorsed, face a fine or criminal prosecution.”

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