A LOCAL authority aiming to embrace the government’s post-pandemic transport transformation says creating routes for battery powered scooters could be part of its strategy, despite concerns they could undermine its efforts to boost sustainable active travel.

Darlington Borough Council has been challenged over the use of e-scooters two weeks after the town was named alongside Middlesbrough and Hartlepool as being part of the first trial of an e-scooter rental scheme in the UK and the government legalising rental e-scooters on cycle lanes, for riders over 16 who have a provisional driving licence.

Electric scooters are common in US and European cities where they are available for hire via a smartphone app and their advocates claim they cut congestion and air pollution.

Councillor Libby McCollom, whose Park East ward includes Darlington town centre where the council is considering creating a hub for e-scooters, said while proponents of e-scooters had highlighted their low-carbon benefits, the short distances they would be used for meant e-scooters would not serve reduce the number of car journeys.

Cllr McCollom said while the government support to increase active travel, including walking and cycling, was a positive move for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, particularly post pandemic, e-scooters were not an active transport form and would serve only to replace shorter journeys that could otherwise be made by bicycle and by foot.

She also said how the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport had concluded further examination should have taken place before the trial and that there were numerous health and safety concerns, for other road-users as well as e-scooter riders.

The authority’s local services portfolio holder, Councillor Andy Keir, said the council was developing clear routes for the e-scooters, but it remained uncertain whether the using the vehicles would fit within Darlington.

He said: “As an integrated transport strategy it may or may not be proved. Cycling and walking are clearly the key methods we would want people to use, and local transport of course, for coming into town.

“There is a niche for e-scooters and this trial is there to prove that in the current Covid epidemic bus passenger numbers are greatly reduced - this is seen as a means to try and assist that. It is for short journeys where people want to go from A to B quickly. It is not active travel, but at least its another means by which folks can get there.”