Ban them? Issue speeding tickets? Make users take a driving test? European cities are searching for solutions to the two-wheeled phenomenon that’s fast transforming cityscapes worldwide: Electric scooters.
Fans call them a leap into the future, a thrilling, app-based way to zip from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, without generating planet-choking pollution.
Rubbish, say critics, noting growing numbers of injuries and even deaths involving e-scooters. They call them a new nuisance to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers who are already battling for the limited space on city streets.
Across the United States, cities are also struggling to make rules for companies renting the vehicles and keep riders safe. Here’s what some European countries are doing about it:
Paris has more free-floating scooter companies than the entire United States, according to a June study, and at least 20,000 whizzing through its historic streets.
Most are app-based, rented scooters that you pick up and drop off wherever you want, and that’s especially appealing to tourists and teens. But victims’ groups say these users don’t know French road rules and can’t always be held responsible for accidents. One scooter driver has been killed in Paris, and dozens were injured this year.
Paris imposes $150 fines for riding scooters on the sidewalk. Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to limit scooter speeds 12 miles per hour in most areas, and 5 miles per hour in areas with heavy foot traffic. She also plans to limit the number of scooters and scooter operators.
France’s government is preparing new rules for the entire country.
Critics say the proposals don’t go far enough. Some want age limits for riders and to require them to take driving tests and have insurance, so that governments don’t have to pay for medical care or other damage they cause.
Berlin legalized electric scooters two months ago and quickly realized it needs tougher rules.
Last week, city officials in the German capital announced plans for on-street parking zones for the battery-powered vehicles, which are often left on sidewalks. Berlin police will also step up patrols to prevent illegal behavior such as “doubling,” or two people on one scooter.
German police say seven people have been seriously injured and 27 suffered minor injuries in scooter accidents since mid-June.
E-scooters are banned from sidewalks, and it is illegal to use them on roads because they don’t follow laws requiring insurance, taxes and driver training. Scooter fans have protested, arguing that it’s time for laws to change.
YouTube personality Emily Hartridge, 35, became the first person in Britain to be killed while riding an e-scooter when she was struck by a truck in south London on July 12.
The next day, a 14-year-old boy suffered a head injury after crashing into a bus stop in southeast London.
Italy’s transportation ministry set new rules last month for e-scooters, Segways, hoverboards and other electric forms of transport.
Scooters are allowed in streets — but can’t go faster than 18 miles per hour. In pedestrian areas, e-scooter speeds are limited to just 3.6 miles per hour. Now it’s up to Italian cities to designate areas and post signs, and establish rules for scooter-sharing businesses.