West Midlands Mayor Andy Street reacts to concerns over the return of e-scooters to Birmingham

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
E-scooters are due to return to Birmingham and the West Midlands - but no firm date appears to have been agreed yet

E-scooters are set to return to the West Midlands in July, according to West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

There have been huge issues raised about their safety, including demands from a bereaved family to keep them away from children too young to ride.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The parents of 12-year-old Mustafa Nadeem, who died after colliding with a bus while riding an e-scooter in Bordesley Green last December, made the plea following the completion of an inquest into his death last Thursday (June 30). They want to see facial recognition technology used by e-scooter companies to make sure the rider meets the legal requirements – aged 18 and with at least a provisional driving licence.

A previous e-scooter trial with Voi previously ended in the West Midlands and a new scheme under Beryl which runs the bike hire scheme in Birmingham is due to begin. At the inquest, Voi acknowledged the concern that underage riders could access scooters but said facial recognition would be “impractical from a cost perspective”.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street would not comment following the inquest, which ended with coroner James Bennett deciding Mustafa died as the result of a collision. Mr Bennett said he also planned to send a prevention of future deaths report to the Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper and Mr Street, to raise the issue of e-scooter providers having no method of checking if a child’s card was used for payment.

Mr Street’s office said: “The mayor will await the coroner’s letter and consider the conclusions carefully before responding.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What are the key safety concerns?

A key issue is children getting hold of e-scooters, which are only meant to be driven by adults. Mustafa’s friend accessed a relative’s Voi account on his own phone and used an under-16’s bank account to pay for the ride, the inquest heard.

Mustafa’s family called for face verification software at the point of unlocking an e-scooter, with Mustafa’s uncle Anis Ali telling the court it “could save lives.” Another 16-year-old boy suffered life-threatening injuries after the e-scooter he was riding hit a car at 5.30am on Monday February 20, at the junction of Taunton Road and Stoney Lane in Balsall Heath.

E-scooters for hire returning to BirminghamE-scooters for hire returning to Birmingham
E-scooters for hire returning to Birmingham | Transport for West Midlands

Who operates the e-scooters?

Voi e-scooters were in use in the West Midlands from September 2020 as part of a trial which was paused in March when Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) did not renew the contract.

At the inquest, Jack Samler, regional general manager for Voi Technology UK Limited, insisted the trial was always going to end in Birmingham in February 2023 and was not as a result of Mustafa’s death.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added that underage riders were “of concern” and Voi took the issue very seriously and continually challenged itself on how to prevent underage riding of its e-scooters. But he said facial recognition at the point of hire would be “impractical from a cost perspective.”

A new contract has been signed with British brand Beryl to deliver e-scooters which will be integrated with the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme, allowing users to access both services from the same app.

When are the new e-scooters coming and how will they be safer?

At a Moseley Forum event on Tuesday June 27, Mr Street revealed new Beryl e-scooters would be launched in mid-to-late July, despite TfWM initially hoping to release them in June.

He said: “Subject to us being confident that the improved safety arrangements with the new operator cover what comes out in the inquest, then the scooters will come back, I’m going to say in the middle, to two-thirds way through July.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Asked how the scooters would be safer, Mr Street said: “So the obvious point here is how on earth can a 12-year-old have got a scooter? But despite the fact we had what were agreed upon safety measures when the contract was initially awarded, what is obvious from the fact a 12-year-old got the [scooter] is they were not being used appropriately.

“So I can’t say Voi failed to do what they said they would do because I have to be careful with their commercial interests here, but clearly, they were open to unscrupulous use. And therefore what we have to do is make sure the new system that accesses infrastructure is not as vulnerable to that unscrupulous use.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.