German lawmakers voted on Friday to allow e-scooters to take to the streets making the UK the last major European economy to still ban them.
The text approved by the Bundesrat on Friday enables battery-powered scooters to circulate on roads and cycle paths but forbids them from being used on the pavements. Users must be 14 or over and must respect a 20 kilometres per hours speed limit.
Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said on Twitter that with the vote, Germany is “paving the way for the mobility of the future with the greatest possible road safety.”
“The regulation takes into account the interests of all road users,” he added.
A boost for public transport?
The move was also welcomed by Achim Berg, President of Bitkom, the country’s largest digital association. In a statement, Berg said that “e-scooters can be an ideal complement to bus and train for the last few kilometres to the destination. This makes public transport more attractive and can reduce car journeys.”
The main cycling association, ADFC, meanwhile, was a bit more measured in its response, writing in a statement that the “joy of the upcoming approval of electric scooters” is “clouded by the lack of infrastructure” for them.
“We now need twice as much space for cycling,” it added.
Several companies providing e-scooters for hire are already engaged in a heated battle for the European market. They include home-grown companies like Berlin start-up Tier and Sweden’s Voi as well as US firms the likes of Bird and Lime.
So far, e-scooters for hire can be found in 11 European countries — Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland — with trials taking place in others including Italy and new launches expected soon.
Bird announced last month, for instance, that it planned to expand to 50 new cities across Europe and the Middle East.
“The rapid expansion into new cities and deeper footprint in existing markets will result in Europe and the Middle East representing nearly 50% of Bird’s worldwide operations,” the company said in a statement.
Accidents and injuries
But although the road for e-scooters may have been paved with good intention, it wasn’t without a few bumps.
France hardened its stance against e-scooters earlier this month with Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne describing the arrival of e-scooters as “very rapid and a little anarchic” in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper.
She announced that as a result of accidents and “a feeling of growing discomfort on sidewalks”, e-scooters users will from September be banned from circulating on pavements, be limited to a 25 kilometre per hour speed and be forbidden from using headphones while riding. Any infraction will result in a €135 fine.
Studies are also coming out revealing how dangerous they can be. One, conducted in the Texan city of Austin, in the US, in from September to November 2018, found that at least 190 riders were injured during the study period. Almost half had a severe injury, most of which (84%) were fractures.
Another study conducted at an emergency room in California over a one-year period recorded 249 patients presenting with injuries associated with electric scooter use.
It highlighted that “riders share roads with fast-moving vehicular traffic but appear to underestimate hazards.”
The UK remains the last large European economy to ban e-scooters as well as segways and hoverboards from public spaces.