E-scooters are a massively popular, but still fairly new mode of transport. That means rules for their use are divergent across Europe, and remain subject to important changes – especially after deadly incidents, as recently in Paris. Here is where we’re at right now.
In early June, an e-scooter struck and killed a pedestrian in Paris. The driver fled the scene but was identified 10 days later and charged with manslaughter. This is the third death by e-scooters in the French capital since 2019. It has revived the debate about whether to restrict the popular mobility mode or even to ban it altogether.
There are about 15,000 e-scooters for rental zipping across Paris at any given day. They are bound by strict rules – one person per e-scooter, maximum speed of 20 km/h, and only on streets or bike paths.
However, the rules are often disregarded. The e-scooter that killed a 32-year-old Italian woman near the Seine last month was carrying two people. Moreover, e-scooters are abandoned anywhere, cluttering up public spaces. The latest incident is symptomatic of the backlash that threatens the continued expansion of the micro-mobility devices.
“Either the situation improves significantly, or we’ll get rid of them completely,” said David Belliard, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of transportation, following the latest incident. He pointed to New York, Barcelona, and the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux as examples of places that had done just that.
€1 million in revenues
Mr Belliard summoned the three e-scooter operators in Paris – Lime, Dott, and Tier – for consultation. Unless they fix the sense of insecurity e-scooters cause with pedestrians and the urban clutter caused by abandoned vehicles, they might not get their licenses extended. Those are up for renewal in October 2022. Not incidentally, they generate €1 million in revenues for the city of Paris.
Following the deadly incident, Paris imposed a speed limit of 10 km/h in several ‘slow zones’ in central Paris, especially where the city recently expanded the pedestrian zones.
So what is the state of play when it comes to e-scooter regulations? While most countries have legalised e-scooters, they remain largely illegal in the UK. In some countries, they may be used on roads, while that remains forbidden in other countries. The same for footpaths and cycle paths. Additionally, as the Paris example shows, cities can impose additional rules to regulate e-scooter usage.
Slicing and dicing
There are a few different ways to slice and dice the information available. In a report published in September last year, the Forum of European Road Safety Research Institutes (FERSI) lined up a few conclusions on the divergent treatment of e-scooters throughout Europe, going over the data per category rather than per country.
In terms of vehicle category, e-scooter users could be classified as
- Pedestrians (Finland)
- Bicyclists (Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden)
- (Light) moped drivers (Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden)
- A separate category (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France)
- Unclear (Hungary).
As for age limits, those varied between:
- 18 (Italy)
- 16 (Portugal)
- 15 (Denmark)
- 14 (Switzerland, Germany)
- 12 (Austria, France)
- None (Belgium, Spain, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Sweden)
- Unclear (Czech Republic)
Other facets similarly examined include speed limits, maximum power, mandated type of road, the need for registration and insurance (and helmets), etc.
E-scooter industry specialists Xiaomi (a Chinese manufacturer) and Halfords (a UK retailer) have produced a clickable world map that provides a thumbnail overview of the rules per country.
Per country overview
Below is a more elaborate overview for some of Europe’s main markets.
- E-scooters are classed as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), and as such are subject to the same requirements as motor vehicles.
- Because they don’t have signaling, license plates, or rear red lights, they are not allowed on public roads.
- They may only be used on private lands, with permission of the owner.
- From July 2020, limited trials were organised. The areas include Bath, Bristol, and South Gloucestershire. Plus Portsmouth and Southampton, West Midlands, Derby and Nottingham, and the West of England Combined Authority.
- In the trials, e-scooters can only be used up to a maximum speed of 15.5 mph. In some areas, it can be lower. In other areas, holding a driving license, either full or provisional, is necessary.
- The minimum age is 12 years
- You may not ride it on pavements or country roads. Failure to comply may lead to a €135 fine.
- Maximum speed is 25 km/h. Exceeding that limit may lead to a €1,500 fine.
- On some higher-speed roads, helmet and visibility clothing are required.
- Use of headphones and mobile phones is prohibited.
- Only one person per scooter.
- Riders are encouraged to use cycle paths where possible.
- E-scooters have been allowed on public roads since 14 June 2019. Riders are encouraged to use bike lanes. If there are none, they may use the streets.
- Riders must be at least 14 years old.
- E-scooters must be manufactured up to government-mandated standards. Only then will they get an Allgemeines Betriebserlaubnis (ABE), which is printed on the vehicle. The ABE is necessary to obtain insurance (and an insurance sticker).
- To get an ABE, an e-scooter must have a holding bar, a motor of no more than 1,500 Watt and a maximum speed of 20 km/h. They also need lights front and rear, independent brakes, and a horn.
- If there are multiple riders, they must ride behind each other.
- E-scooters have been legal in Spain since January 2021. They may not be used in tunnels, on pavements or motorways.
- The maximum speed is set at 25 km/h.
- Riders are not required to wear helmets but must wear reflective vests. They may not wear headphones or use mobile phones while driving.
- Maximum speed for e-scooters is 25 km/h.
- If they go faster, they fall in a different category and the rider needs a driver’s license, a helmet, a number plate and insurance.
- E-scooters have been legal since January 2019.
- The maximum speed is 20 km/h.
- Drivers must be at least 15 years.
- The maximum speed is 20 km/h.
- The engine power must not exceed 250 Watt.
- There is no age limit, but riders younger than 15 must wear helmets.
- E-scooters that go faster or have more engine power may only be used on fenced-off areas and private roads.
- Legalisation is set for 2021.
- The experience of other countries will serve as an example.