A bit of power keeps Falkirk scooter users on the move

Shirley Erskine from Falkirk's Shopmobility with client Marie McLellan
Shirley Erskine from Falkirk's Shopmobility with client Marie McLellan

With a top speed of 8mph and popular with a select and often mature clientele, how much of a risk can mobility scooters really pose?

Powered chairs are a vital mode of transport for people with disabilities or mobility issues, allowing them to take a trip down the high street like everyone else.

But, as much as they mean to their users, scooter use, both on pavements and roads, is not for everyone.

In recent years, there have been high-profile accidents involving scooters, calls for a fit-to-drive test, and stories of drivers careering into high street shop windows.

Nonetheless, the number of mobility scooters in use in the UK has risen dramatically, and in Falkirk, as in other large towns, they’re a common sight.

Available to hire or buy, the mobility scooter industry is thriving. But those who manage their loan and sale say that, just like any other vehicle, scooters can cause harm to both the public and the user.

Now, one leading mobility sales company has produced its very own “highway code” for mobility scooter users.

The guidance, produced by Ableworld, stresses the need to follow the rules and stay safe.

Mike Williams, the company’s managing director said: “There are lots of issues surrounding mobility scooters and that upset me a bit, especially when I look at the percentages of accidents between cars and bikes which are obviously far greater than any involving scooters.

“We want to promote responsibility and give people help and advice about choosing a mobility scooter and promote ethics in selling them.

“Without a doubt, sales of mobility scooters have increased over the years.

“Why shouldn’t people be allowed to get around without their legs?

“I half understand what some people have to say about mobility scooters, but there are a lot of dangerous people out there and on our roads.

“I understand people’s frustration when a fellow road user drives badly, whether they do it in a car, on a bike or any mode of transport,

“It’s more about the person rather than what they are riding or driving.”

Nationally, there have been calls for tighter regulation of scooter use including a test for anyone wishing to use a road-ready model.

However RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, has not called for testing, but backs a more common sense approach.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA said: “RoSPA believes that the best ways to improve mobility scooter safety would be to improve the quality and availability of guidance and training for users, manufacturers and providers of mobility scooters, and to obtain better accident data to inform any further measures.

“Some road traffic laws - specifically regulations governing careless and dangerous driving; driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and the use of mobile telephones whilst driving - should apply to scooter users.”

However, local scooter loan agencies say monitoring is in place.

Dial-A-Journey’s popular Shopmobility centre in Falkirk’s Callendar Riggs recorded 7000 scooter loans last year, the majority of which were for two or three hour periods.

Chief Executive, Duncan Hearsum said: “Our experience has been a relatively good one; we’ve had very few incidents over the years.

“When people come to Shopmobility, they have to undertake an assessment to show they can control the scooter.

“Staff have a close relationship with people who use them regularly so they can monitor their ability or pick up on any decline.

“Our chairs are also set at 4mph.

“Mobility scooters are a very popular choice.

“We are also seeing a lot more users buy their own equipment - there is far more choice of models and they have become much more affordable.

“I think there does need to be some form of assessment as you do need co-ordination and control to use them.

“In England, there have been personal injuries, we’ve never had that here, but we have had a few incidents of people who have hit shops and displays. I think it hangs on people just acting responsibly, but I think assessment and ongoing monitoring are also important.”

But for the many who use them regularly and responsibly, the praise could not be higher.

Marie McLellan has used mobility scooters for almost four years.

The 58-year-old from Tamfourhill uses Shopmobility scooters in the town centre but also has her own taxed scooter which can go on the road.

She said: “I have never had an accident, and I have only had a few comments. I’ve had four mini strokes and have back problems, so without the scooter I couldn’t walk any distance.

“I think in Falkirk, people are used to seeing them and are good with them. There will also be people who want to have a moan about something or other, but the fact is people are living longer, people have got disabilities but they want to get around.”

Falkirk’s Myra Seivwright has been using mobility scooters for seven years, and says it’s hard to explain how valuable they are.

She said: “They’re terrific. They give you freedom. They allow you to go out shopping on your own.

“They make you feel more normal because you don’t need to ask someone to go for you.

“I don’t know where Falkirk would be without them - so many people use them.”