‘Safe scooting’ message at North Walsham’s first mobile scooter training day

Manners and manouevring were two key features of a popular pioneering course in North Walsham's community centre this week aimed at the growing number of mobility scooter users.

The day-long Safe Scoot event was visited by about 20 people and was such a success that police may organise another later in the year.

Mobile scooter user Sandra Williamson, treasurer of the North Walsham Area Access Group, which represents disabled people, said they had approached police about staging the course; a first for North Walsham.

'When I've seen elderly people in particular, who sometimes drive their scooters far too fast on pavements, I think it's not safe and I thought a training session might help,' said Mrs Williamson, 64.

Norfolk police have blazed a trail in helping people use their mobile scooters safely, according to traffic management officer David Law. After a session was filmed and put on the BBC's iPlayer in December 2009, Norfolk police were flooded with enquiries from as far afield as New Zealand.

Those turning up at North Walsham Community Centre on Monday could tackle a course which featured sharp bends, a zebra crossing, and common 'obstacles' including a wheelie bin, and a mum pushing a buggy.

Mr Law said they aimed to raise users' awareness and help them realise their limitations. Some owners of Class 3 vehicles, designed for road use with a top speed of 8mph, failed to cut their speed to the legal 4mph when they travelled on pavements.

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'It is totally inappropriate and dangerous to drive at 8mph on a pavement,' said Mr Law. Police also gave guidance on etiquette, including thoughtfulness towards pedestrians who sometimes found access to shops blocked by mobility scooters parked across entrances.

Scooter users were quizzed about their own experiences by PCSO Imogen Palmer who said the town's narrow and uneven pavements kept cropping up as concerns.

Pedestrians and drivers who failed to check before emerging from entrances were also a common problem.

Wheelchair user Andy Carter, 54, from Halvergate House care home in North Walsham, said the session had given him a chance to try out a mobility scooter for the first time.

'This has been really worthwhile and given me confidence,' he said. 'I've decided that I would like to get one of my own now - it would give me so much more independence.'