Zwings blind simulator walk will improve safety of Yeovil E-Scooter trial
The Department for Transport (DfT) E-Scooter trial in Yeovil is now in its fourteenth month. South Somerset District Council have worked closely with Zwings throughout the trial to refine the service provided in the trial areas. Community feedback continues to play a pivotal role in ensuring the use of the trial scheme maximises the environmental benefits of e-scooters and allows the entire community to engage with them positively and safely.
Zwings, together with representatives of South Somerset District Council and Avon & Somerset Police, were recently invited to join the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to undertake a simulation to experience being visually impaired using ‘blind sim’ goggles and white canes. Through this exercise, they gained a real-life perspective on what it feels like to be varying levels of sight impairment whilst walking in public areas from car parks to multi use footpaths. They learned how those with visual impairments experience navigating obstacles and are now able to apply these lessons to enhance the e-scooter operations and other community realm projects for the safety of pedestrians with sight loss.
South Somerset District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, Cllr Sarah Dyke, said, “SSDC is one of the first local authorities in the South West to trial the Department for Transport’s e-scooter scheme. The Zwings e-scooters are electrically-powered by renewable energy, so fit in with our environment strategy and our aim to reduce carbon emissions. Launching in a rural market town like Yeovil was trailblazing and, in order to work with the town infrastructure and demographic, closely engaging with Zwings to adapt the model to work for both riders and non-riders is imperative. Over the past year of the trial, continued liaison with all stakeholders, including RNIB and Avon & Somerset police, ensures responsible use and safety is paramount for all. This blind walk simulation has given an awareness into the challenges faced by visually impaired people.”
Steve Hyde, regional campaigns officer for RNIB in the South West, said, “It was a pleasure working with South Somerset District Councillors and Avon and Somerset Police, we endeavour to work with the e-scooter rental operators as it is essential that we make these trials as safe as we possibly can. I hope, and feel, that Zwings were able to take valuable information away from this experience to benefit visually impaired residents and other pedestrians by making our streets safer to navigate.”
Zwings CEO and founder, Joe Lewin, said, “We have built a productive partnership with Mr Hyde at BNIB. Steve and I speak at least once a month but often more regularly to discuss the e-scooter trial in South Somerset and to share ways in which we can continually improve safety considerations for the visually impaired. We are thankful for RNIB’s forward thinking approach when it comes to the integration of e-scooter trials to Britain’s transport mix and their willingness to collaborate with us as an operator.”
E-scooter trial operator, Zwings, provides 150 e-scooters spread across 60 parking bays in Yeovil, and have as many as 8000 riders and growing. All riders must be a full driving license holder, including provisional driving licenses. Residents and visitors of South Somerset have covered over 110,000 kilometres (68350 miles) since the trials began in October 2020, the equivalent cumulative distance to travelling the entire way around the equator two and a half times. The trial scheme will continue for another year for DfT to review all the data before ministers decide whether to include e-scooters as personal modes of transport.
Zwings commitment to education and rule enforcement through collaboration with various stakeholders such as RNIB, Guide Dogs For The Blind and our County Council partners along with SSDC have helped the scheme to increase the safety of riders and non-riders. The objective of the DfT e-scooter trial is to promote sustainable transport alternatives to reduce car usage. All private e-scooters are currently illegal on UK public roads, cycle/bridleways and public spaces. Zwings e-scooters in the trials are covered by insurance, and can only be ridden on roads and cycle lanes within the designated trial areas.
For more information and frequently asked questions about the South Somerset DfT e-scooter trial, visit the Zwings website: www.zwings.co.uk/.
Image: Zwings blind sim walk