By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporter
Police say riders of illegal electric scooters react with “confusion” when officers confiscate them from London’s roads.
This week, a team of officers took to Oxford Street for a day of action that saw them seize two dozen privately-owned e-scooters.
The confusion, they readily acknowledge, comes from the fact that London’s relationship with e-scooters is still rather confusing.
While some parts of London are now taking part in TfL’s rental scheme, and even though you see them everywhere, it’s illegal to ride your own e-scooter anywhere that isn’t private property.
Two officers who regularly patrol the West End have explained the complex job on their hands of increasing awareness about the current rules.
Police sergeant Augustine Anyaegbuna said: “We have done a month-long campaign of trying to get the message out about what the law is with e-scooters, and what stance officers will take.”
He and PC Asiya Aziz were among 12 officers in Oxford Street on June 9, some on bicycles, where they stopped and confiscated 25 e-scooters.
Some were being driven through red lights or without insurance, the officers said.
Explaining what happened on the day, Augustine said: “It’s much easier to catch up with them on a bike, because you can’t go yanking someone off them. Ultimately we’re there to protect people from being injured.
“The scooters are seized and taken to our compound in Pentonville and they can be claimed back. Some we have seen cost £500 and up to £1,000.”
He continued: “A lot of people who we stop say they have not been told this [that riding them in public is illegal].
“They seem confused at first, and then you explain it to them and they will say sorry and are understanding. Most of them fully take it on board.
“It’s a mixture of people, some were wearing jackets and looked like they were going to work. Some were Deliveroo drivers.”
Asiya also said there are concerns that e-scooters have replaced mopeds as the new vehicle of choice for petty thefts of mobile phones.
“Moped-enabled crime” was widely seen as a menace across London before the pandemic forced the public indoors.
“It has shifted more towards e-scooters,” she said. “They don’t have licence plates, they’re more manoeuvrable, and that makes it easier for them to steal people’s phones or belongings.
“Mopeds were more noticeable, e-scooters are less identifiable and they can weave in and out of traffic. We have to balance out whether to pursue them if it risks putting other people’s lives in danger.”
Another potentially confusing aspect of the rules is that not everywhere in London has started taking part in TfL’s e-scooter rental scheme.
The areas that are, as of June 7, include Canary Wharf, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Richmond.
Notably, the West End and most of the city centre aren’t yet.
The e-scooters are installed with GPS that tells them to automatically come to a stop if ridden to an area where TfL’s scheme isn’t yet happening.
The officers hope that when the rental scheme is rolled out further it will start to cut out the use of private rented e-scooters.
Superintendent Simon Evans said in a statement: “The Met Police are pleased to support this trial to enable the Government to be informed of how these e-scooters may form part of our transport infrastructure in the future.
“However, we’d like to remind everybody that private e-scooters used outside this trial remain illegal and will be dealt with by way of seizure.
Their advice to Londoners who are venturing out into the city centre is to also stay vigilant for thieves.
Augustine said: “People have been locked away for months and they are coming out to places like Regent Street again.
“They’re holding up their phones to take photos and that makes them vulnerable to theft.”
A Westminster Council spokesperson said the borough, which includes the West End, “is preparing to join the next phase of the TfL e-scooter trial and we will make an announcement in due course.”
They added: “The council has identified appropriate parking locations for this scheme and we are monitoring issues from the roll-out in other boroughs to ensure the trial in Westminster runs as smoothly and safely as possible.”
Pictured: PC Asiya Aziz (left) and police sergeant Augustine Anyaegbuna Photo by Owen Sheppard
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