Home News The e-scooter glitch frustrating people in Bristol

The e-scooter glitch frustrating people in Bristol


I love the Voi e-scooters. There, I’ve said it.

It’s a controversial stance in Bristol these days. Every time we write about Voi’s trial rental scheme, which launched last October, there is a flurry of comments – not all printable – from people who want rid.

There are legitimate concerns, particularly over the way some scooters have been left blocking pavements. But on the whole, social media might suggest they’ve been less popular than they really are. It’s clear there are plenty of people who really enjoy zooming round on the scooters. Just walk outside on a weekend – they’re everywhere. Which, it seems, is a large part of the irritation for the naysayers.

I’m not a very adventurous person. The thought of a vaguely spicy curry is enough to make me nervous. I’m far too wimpy to ride a motorbike, but an e-scooter is the Goldilocks level of thrill for me – a strange, childlike sense of freedom while actually moving not very fast at all.

Have you experienced the same issue? Let us know in the comments.

Reporter Conor Gogarty's frustration builds over Voi scooter issue
Reporter Conor Gogarty’s frustration builds

Recently, though, I’ve fallen out with the scooters a bit. The issue has centred on the parking zone where St Nicholas Street meets High Street in the city centre. On three or four occasions, I’ve spent several minutes trying and failing to end my ride there.

Despite it being a designated parking spot – on each occasion there’s been a herd of Voi right next to me, smugly reminding me of that fact – the app on my phone shows an error message when I try to park the scooter.

Flashing up in the middle of the screen, the message reads: “Uh oh – this isn’t a parking zone.” While simultaneously, at the top of the screen, a banner tells me: “This is a good place to end your ride.” Is this a case of Schrödinger’s scooter?

When it happened yesterday, I spent about five minutes attempting to end the ride before giving up, the cost climbing by 20p with each passing minute.

On previous occasions when this has happened, I’ve scooted up Wine Street and used the spot next to Castle Park. That didn’t work yesterday. Once again, when I tried to end my ride, it told me I was in a no-parking zone, while also telling me it was a good place to park. As I stood in the middle of a rank of parked scooters.

For several minutes, I desperately tried to manoeuvre my way into the hallowed blue parking circle bobbing around infuriatingly on my phone screen. Then, even when the app appeared to show the scooter in the circle, it still wouldn’t let me park.

I was shifting aimlessly across the pavement like a drunken sailor on a storm-rocked ship. Noticing a quizzical stare from a man who was unlocking one of the other scooters, I told him my predicament. “Ah yes,” he said. “That happens.”

After a few more minutes, the app suddenly allowed me to park, without my having done anything new.

A little peeved, I asked Bristol Twitter if others had experienced similar issues. They had, it turned out.

Edward Studley replied: “Yes this happens to me on a regular basis. I asked them about it and they said it’s due to poor gps signal in bad weather.”

The weather yesterday, I should point out, was warm and dry.

Sam Grist commented: “This has happened to me a couple of times and [to be fair] I think the issue is the spaces are so small. They do refund you but its a bit annoying to wander round for a while trying to make it stick and then message them to get back the 30p or whatever.”

Dave McNally added: “My nearest one requires you to stand in the road to be able to park it. I think the zones have been drawn using a map overlay that’s a few feet out.”

Kay Hannay tweeted: “I’ve had it happen a bit too, round Montpelier.”

And it wouldn’t have been a social media conversation about e-scooters without a comment like the following being thrown in: “Those things are a frigging menace, ridden by oh so woke t***s. Should be banned completely.”

The parking glitch threatens the ease and convenience which are among the scooters’ main selling points. If people are going to spend five minutes trying to park, growing increasingly annoyed, they will probably consider another form of transport next time.

Customers are losing out on money too, though it’s reassuring to hear that Sam was able to get refunds. When I reached out to Voi’s press office for this piece, its spokeswoman told me I could potentially get a refund by contacting customer service.

She said: “Safety and accessibility are a top priority for Voi and the West of England Combined Authority. A standard part of our day-to-day operations is to always perform ongoing adjustments to our geofencing zones, including the mandatory parking areas, to ensure optimal accuracy and the safety of our riders and other road users.

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“These reviews always take into account all the usage information as well as the feedback from all the different stakeholders.

“Voi has a 24-hour user support service that users can contact via email (support@voiapp.io) or phone (0800 376 8179) to discuss anything related to our service.”

Let’s hope the issue can be overcome soon, putting the joy back into Voi.

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