By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
DODGING mobile ‘hazards’ as well as the static ‘street furniture’ in Gosport High Street is a common feature of what should be a relaxing time spent shopping in the pedestrianised area.
Having been contacted by a reader, The Globe has carried out two surveys to find out how many people are riding bikes, scooters, e-scooters and mobility scooters in the High Street.
The observation point was near the junction of the High Street with Bemister’s Lane and only those who rode past were counted – not riders who could be seen further along the High Street.
The first survey was between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Thursday, July 15, during which 39 bikes, three e-scooters and eight mobility scooters went past the observation point.
On Wednesday July 21, a second survey was carried out in the same spot from 9am to 11am and the numbers were: 18 bikes, one e-scooter and 15 mobility scooters.
Add in vans – including one police van and an ambulance – plus a few scooter and skateboard riders, and during the four hours of the surveys, 96 mobile ‘hazards’ were recorded, or one every two-and-a-half minutes.
The riding of mobility scooters in the pedestrianised area is not illegal and all were observed to be driven carefully, mainly down the centre of the area.
Most of the bike riders and all of the e-scooter riders observed were male and while some bikes were ridden cautiously, most were cycling quite fast; all of the e-scooters went past the observation point rapidly even though there were people shopping.
‘In legislation, an e-scooter is classed as a powered transporter and is treated as a motor vehicle and so falls under the Road Traffic Act’
The riding of a bike and e-scooter in the pedestrianised High Street is a criminal offence because the area is classified as a ‘highway’, administered by Hampshire County Council not Gosport Borough Council.
Therefore, enforcement is the responsibility of the police and Hampshire Constabulary confirmed: “Gosport High Street is pedestrianised so cyclists shouldn’t be using it.
“Regarding e-scooters specifically, they are a fairly new device, and with that comes challenges around education on the license requirements, MoT, and tax needed to use them.
“Privately owned e-scooters can only be used on private land, with permission from the landowner.
“In legislation, an e-scooter is classed as a powered transporter and is treated as a motor vehicle and so falls under the Road Traffic Act. This means that they are subject to all the same legal requirements as motor vehicles; MoT, tax, licensing, insurance and specific construction regulations.
“There is currently no lawful way to register, tax, or insure a privately owned e-scooter, which means that riding anything other than a rental scheme e-scooter on a public road, pavement or other public area, even if it is included in a rental scheme trial location, is a road traffic offence.”
‘The police are not resourced to cover
the High Street all the time’
There are some government trials on rental e-scooters – including one in Portsmouth and another in Southampton – but even then, they cannot be used on pavements and riders are still subject to road traffic legislation.
The chair of Gosport Safety Partnership, Councillor John Beavis, told The Globe: “There have not been of late any serious accidents but that does not mean it does not matter.”
But he admitted that when it comes to enforcement, “the police are not resourced to cover the High Street all the time” – a view echoed by Gosport borough councillor for Town ward, June Cully.
However, it is difficult for bike and e-scooter riders to claim innocence of the laws as the High Street has plenty of ‘no cycling’ signs and the dangers to pedestrians of the almost silent but relatively fast e-scooters have featured frequently in the national press recently.
Just earlier this week, it was reported – on the BBC and in newspapers – that a three-year-old girl has suffered life-changing injuries due to a collision with an e-scooter in south London.
Mrs Cully said people were concerned with the speed of bikes and e-scooters in the High Street and the riders having, “no idea, no anticipation, that people will suddenly turn” into their path.
A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman advised, “anyone affected, or anyone who has witnessed a crime, to continue to report these issues to us so we can develop a stronger understanding of the scale of the problem. Incidents can be reported on our website or on 101. 999 is to be used in an emergency situation.”
Photo (above): cyclist swerves to avoid a pedestrian in Gosport High Street