The invasion of electric scooters across Europe and beyond is coercing law enforcement to address the need for legalization of LEVs (Light Electric Vehicles). Walk in any urban area and more of these small forms of transport unfold. Most people use LEVs for moving around with some terming them as the ultimate solution to traffic congestion and air pollution. Silicon Valley Start-ups have initiated hundreds of scooters, giving birth to notable companies like Bird or Lime.
However, other countries are handling the recent flood in scooters differently. Recently Germany allowed electric scooter use, although restricted to pavements and cycling paths. The law is specific to e-scooters (defined as throttle powered electric kick scooters), as far as the LEV category is concerned. Even though EU had allowed cities in Europe to use electric scooters, Germany had been holding back until last year when Germany’s Transport Minister announced of the Cabinet’s endorsement of the use of e-scooters on the road.
What Germany’s New e-Scooter Law Means
The new law would allow the use of e-scooters having a maximum speed of 12kph to ride on sidewalks, cycling zones, and pedestrian lanes. The legal age to operate one of these LEVs has been set to 12 years or older. The law doesn’t constrain speed limits to 12kph but will require riders to wear protective helmets once they clock 20kph. However, operating such bikes is only allowed to people of 14 years of age or older. Kids seem to love electric scooters too!
Here’s a breakdown of what Germany’s LEVs law looks like:
– A top speed of 20kph the cut-off. Any operator moving faster than this limit is required to wear a helmet.
– The e-scooter’s power is limited to 500 watts. An allowance of up to 1200watts applies to self-balancing vehicles.
– “Minimum driving requirements” must be met. In general terms, this means the light electric vehicle must be able to brake, have a lighting system, be controllable and roadworthy.
– The new regulations apply across Germany and there aren’t any municipal laws yet.
– Light electric vehicles must have compulsory insurance, including insurance stickers/plates. Basically, the insurance is for purposes of identifying the vehicle owner, otherwise the damage e-scooters’ may cause is low.
In a nutshell, this is pretty much good news to Germany as it joins other European countries. In France, you can ride e-scooters in a pavement or pedestrian lanes, provided you maintain your speed limit. Switzerland and Austria have also allowed its citizens to ride electric scooters as long as they are at per with the speed limits of 25kph.
Beyond Europe, you’ll find several US states regulating the movement of e-scooters and the legal age to operate as well. States such as Washington D.C. and Los Angeles have initiated a pilot program to test the usefulness of dockless vehicles with limited permits.
On The Other Hand…
The sudden craze of e-scooters might not be so popular to some law enforcement in different countries. Even though the supporters of e-scooters claim its benefits outdo smoke emitting vehicles, other countries see these LEV’s as a threat to pedestrian safety.
For instance, Dubai recently confirmed its stand on electric scooters as being illegal to use in the country. Companies such as KIWIride received a major blow along with the other eight companies directly affected. The city transport department’s disapproval of the use of e-scooters was a move to give more room for research on the rather savvy technology, as well as finding new methods to improve pedestrian safety.
Just recently, France and Spain imposed a ban on the use of scooters on pavements. This comes after the countries announced the regulation of LEVs back in October 2018.
Probably the most unexpected country still holding off from allowing e-scooters is the U.K. Although U.K’s restrictions are not necessarily a ban, the laws don’t favor the electric scooter industry either. U>k have a law in place for electric vehicles (where e-scooters are unfortunately placed).
The law does not permit electric vehicles to be used in pavements or cycling paths. On the other hand, the power threshold needed for electric vehicles on the road is far too high for electric scooters. Now Bird, the e-scooter retailer, recently received permits to allow e-scooters but only at the Olympic Park.
So, if you’re in the U.K this is the only place you will be able to legally ride a scooter without infringing the country’s laws. The ways things seem the U.K might be having plans to change the electric laws in the future, as seen on their urban mobility plan.
But are Electric Scooters Safe?
Riding at 25kph doesn’t seem much of a zip until you hit a stationary object like a street post. Scooters have frames and wheels only, lacking any safety features like airbags, or padding. Even as they come with huge eco-friendly benefits, scooters also have drawbacks. Allowing a vehicle to move at 24kph in lanes where people and pets generally move at 4kph will surely pose some threats to pedestrians.
When riding through pets or small potholes, one can easily lose balance, as the small wheels in scooters are quite delicate. Drivers of fast cars can be a threat to e-scooter operators since the electric motors pick up speed quickly. This is why the law in countries regulating scooters requires a helmet before hopping on.
As with any moving vehicle, training is very important. Recently, the issue of experience has popped up in the LEV industry, with consumers reporting accidents on the rise. There are no standard regulations for scooter riders particularly in functions such as indicating while intersecting or choosing whether to follow traffic lights or pedestrian lights.
As we have seen electric scooter sharing increasing annually, scooter companies will strive to spread out their reach worldwide, expanding to new cities. The laws may be uptight, but it seems that Silicon Valley Start-ups have a glimpse of hope city officials will realize the need for LEV for a sustainable transport system.
Seeing the potential risks affiliated with this new technology, the ball may be entirely on the national and county government’s court. The scooter industry is already worth billions and its production is increasing in cities already accustomed to e-scooters. There may be a need for city officials to merge the interests between cities, companies, pedestrians, and riders.