An apology, E-Scooters, and BOJO
I might owe Gatwick airport an apology. Last month I reported the non-availability of their robotic parking system, more than a year after it was supposed to go live. I tried to book it and got diverted to the terminal-side parking, albeit at a long-stay rate. In a lightbulb moment I realized that this is probably reflecting the reality that there are so few travelers that everyone can be accommodated at the terminal!
The reader of this column has probably worked out that I am not a great fan of Bird and Lime, and others of that ilk. E-scooters were banned here until the government allowed councils 12-month trials to see if they were viable. The first trial started in Middlesbrough in July. That went so well that neighboring Hartlepool dropped its plans after seeing what happened. In London there are no legal trials and yet hospital trauma units are already having to deal with a steadily growing stream of injured scooterists including a fatality and life-altering injuries. Down in Coventry, the Council has suspended their trial after just five days.
There seems to be a common theme, or more correctly, themes, running through these trials. First, notwithstanding their “legality” they are inherently dangerous in traffic. Scooters are forced into the curb and with drains, etc., that tends to be the least even part of the carriageway. So, inevitably, scooterists migrate to the footway which is ILLEGAL and dangerous for pedestrians.
At 15mph, a scooter is prey in traffic; on the footway it becomes the predator. The second problem, which seems to point to incredibly poor vetting processes and security by the scheme operators, is the number of underage children who seem able to get hold of scooters and whizz round town centers, on the footway, in pedestrian zones, and even in shopping malls. The scooters should only be available to people with driving licenses, so either there is no vetting or parents and older teenagers are signing up to the scheme and then passing access details to children.
In Birmingham and Northampton, recently launched schemes are operated by the Swedish provider Voi. The company has offered to fund additional police resources to enforce the rules. Presumably, this is in the time that they have spare from policing Covid restrictions and other crimes. The longer-term plan is to give scooters license plates so they can be identified and penalized. Now forgive me, but if the civil servant who wrote the rules had the brain capacity of an ice cube, shouldn’t they have put that in at the start? FYI our current police numbers are about 20,000 down on what they were a decade ago and, in some forces, numbers have dropped by 45 percent.
Meanwhile, after launching a very problematical series of twelve months trials, three months in the MPs and the transport select committee are singing the praises of E-scooters as an eco-friendly future replacement for the commuter car. Yeah, that’s going to work, especially in the rain, in the dark, in winter.
Covid 19; what a difference a month makes. A month ago, I said that it was on the wane here, panic over, nothing to see. So, BOJO lifted the barriers and, surprise, surprise there was a deluge. Numbers rising exponentially, people, particularly young people, ignoring the Hands-Face-Space rules and suddenly regional lockdowns are everywhere. About a quarter of the population under some kind of re-introduced lockdown.
And there’s the problem. Rather than copy New Zealand and simply shut us down again for a couple of weeks, the government has dithered, and tinkered, and U-turned U-turns until nobody, including government ministers, knows what the **** is going on.
Oh yes, and the response of any dictatorial government that has lost it: fines have multiplied if you break the rules that even they don’t understand. Their great hope was the newly launched NHS Track and Trace App, that would track everyone you came in contact with and if you loaded a positive Covid test would ping all your contacts and tell them to hunker down for 14 days.
One teeny tiny problem: there are three testing bodies in the UK Public Health England (PHE), The Office of National Statistics (ONS), and the NHS. The NHS App will not accept results from the NHS or ONS. Back in June the government launched an earlier App, which cost of about $7.5 m. It didn’t work and was quietly dropped after a few weeks. Apparently, the government didn’t ask for a refund. I am taking this personally, as my first grandchild has just been born in Holland and because of this government’s incompetence, there is no way that I can see her for the foreseeable future. Think about rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic and you have the UK response to Covid-19.