The Department for Transport is currently consulting on the safety of mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs. Although injuries are rare, there are already around 330,000 users of these vehicles and an ageing population means that the numbers are expected to increase. According to the DfT, concerns are starting to be raised about the risk they may pose to pedestrians.
Does that sound familiar?
The consultation is concerned with design questions, such as the maximum speed, and safety features. It is concerned with the users of these vehicles: whether the minimum age for drivers should be reduced, and whether fitness to drive should be assessed. And it is concerned with the use of the vehicles: such as whether they and their users should be registered, whether users should hold third-party insurance, and whether there should be a maximum speed limit.
The consultation is open until the 28th May, and the full details are here.
Hands up - this isn't an issue that I've given a huge amount of thought to. But on first reading it seems to make a lot of sense. It sounds as though the technology and the needs of users have moved beyond the way things were when the legislation was originally drawn up. Some considered changes might give pedestrians more protection, and users more mobility.
On the other hand, this could also raise some uncomfortable issues.
Electric bicycles currently have a speed limit of 15mph, compared to 4mph for powered wheelchairs. Some might argue that if users of mobility scooters have testing, registration, and the like imposed on them, then why shouldn't users of electrically assisted bicycles? If electric bicycles, with a maximum speed of 15mph have to be registered then why not a normal road bike, which is commonly ridden at higher speeds. There are a lot more of them, and we all know that some are ridden on pavements.
I don't really believe that changing the legislation on mobility scooters will end up resulting in a mandatory cycling test, and registration of cyclists. That cannot possibly make sense. I'm confident that there will be compelling reasons for drawing a line in the sand that will stop the floodgates being opened by the thin end of the wedge sliding down the slippery slope. I'm just not sure yet what those reasons are. However, I am pretty confident that we are going to see this issue raised.