‘More dangerous than ever’: Blind and low vision pedestrians fear for their safety as e-scooters and bikes take over

15 October 2021

Navigating your way around when you are blind or have low vision can be difficult and fraught with danger at the best of times - but adding e-bikes and scooters to the mix are causing many to live in fear on our footpaths.

82% per cent of people who are blind or have low vision don’t feel safe walking on footpaths, a survey by Vision Australia revealed.

“They can get up to 50km/h and even stationary, they become an obstacle. Imagine how frightening it is knowing this could knock you over at any time you’re walking down the street,” Chris Edwards, Vision Australia manager of government relations and advocacy said.

50% of respondents said they have had a near miss with an electric vehicle on a footpath, while 61% said they had encountered a trip hazard by a vehicle left on the footpath. These safety issues are likely to become more pressing in Melbourne with a shared e-scooter scheme to be trialled in the CBD.

Chris, who is blind himself, said although he has a Seeing Eye Dog, he fears walking alone because of the increase in e-scooters and similar vehicles on footpaths. 

“Everyone should feel safe using a footpath, but at the moment I can’t be confident I won’t encounter someone riding one of these vehicles down the footpath or one that’s been left in the middle of the footpath.

“It has a serious impact on your ability to be independent and to be able to participate in the community like anyone else. In some ways, it’s probably more dangerous than ever to be blind pedestrian.”

To mark White Cane Safety Day, on October 15, Vision Australia is calling for stricter regulations on the use of electric scooters and bike on footpaths. 

“Our position is that all e-scooters and bikes should be banned from footpaths and the enforcement of this needs to be improved. More also needs to be done to ensure that shared scooters and bikes are not left to obstruct footpaths when not in use,” Chris said.

“There are certainly locations where these vehicles are appropriate, like shared pathways, but there still a greater need for regulation about the speed these vehicles can travel.

“The fact is these vehicles have made footpaths unsafe for people who are blind or have low vision, as well as for anybody else with reduced mobility, such as older Australians.

“Governments must recognise pedestrian safety is the priority when it comes to footpaths and act now to protect that.”

Key findings:

  • 35% of respondents said the presence of e-scooters and ands similar on footpaths has led to them using footpaths less often
  • 82% said the prevalence of e-scooters and similar on footpaths has led to them feeling less safe
  • 50% of respondents have had a near miss with an e-scooter or similar on a footpath
  • 61% have encountered a trip hazard by a vehicle being left on the footpath
  • Over 50% said the silent nature of e-scooters and similar is a serious issue
  • 30% indicated the speed these vehicles can travel was their main concern.