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Wednesday 16.10.2019 | Name days: Daiga, Dinija

Electric scooters – a Europe-wide headache. Can Riga find a remedy?

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

No one has a strong position when it comes to electric scooters. For some people it is a convenient form of transport, whereas for others it is a hazard. Their speed and quiet movement is not the only concern. There is also the question as to where do electric scooters belong – on the driveway, pedestrian walkway or bicycled pads.

On top of that, around the afternoon it often feels as though a scooter rain had passed through Riga – scooters are left everywhere. Activists urge Riga to at the very least control scooter rent companies. Meanwhile, the city expects laws to be established on this.

When asked by BNN how traffic participants in Riga should go about electric scooters while there is no specific legislation, City for People association representative Māris Jonovs says a decisive city council is the answer.

«As long as walkways are overcrowded with everything to avoid disrupting cars, because this is how the city is built to be, then, taking electric scooters from the equation, nothing will change much,» said the activist.

«The city is meaningless, hazardous and inconvenient for everyone. It is necessary to finally outline problems and start resolving them.»

«For a long time Riga has not given any thought to comfort of residents. The consequences of this negligence have resulted in hazards for residents. Often walkways become blocked with objects that obstruct visibility. Sooner or later we will see an emergence of injuries. I allow we could see deaths, too, because the city does not want to take measures,» predicts Jonovs.

Legislation needed

Road Traffic and Safety Directorate (CSDD) has started working on regulations. However, the institution refrained from naming any proposals or dates in a conversation with BNN. The topic is being worked on at CSDD think tank. The nearest meeting scheduled to discuss electric scooters will take place in September.

Jonovs is confident that nothing tangible could come from the state to govern electric scooters – it would have been enough to add them to a specific category. They could be added to bicycle category or some other general category (skateboards, unicycles, etc.), says Jonovs, stressing that driver’s licence should not be required.

Adoption of regulations for electric scooters, according to him, would help sort out legislative problems associated with bicycles – at the very least drop the use of cyclist’s license. Jonovs claims – in some countries of the world the licence is not required.

Additionally, it is not possible to indicate turns properly while driving an electric scooter. It is often hard for cyclists in Riga, says the representative of City for People.

It offers an opportunity to sort out conflicting rules in road traffic regulations and Road Traffic Law. Bicycles are listed as a form of transport in one and listed as mechanical transports, not bicycles, in the other.

City for People has submitted proposals to CSDD. The association expects specific ideas and discussions.

Nowhere without Riga

To bring order to streets, the city should be active, Jonovs says. This problem is not the most topical in Riga at the moment, and the city enthusiast doubts there is any other city in Riga that will have a headache over it.

«In spite of all major rent companies having reached an agreement on creating a joint policy, I have yet to see this good will in practice. The only way to influence rent companies is adopting regulations to govern rent services in cities,» said Jonovs.

The city needs to make it clear what is allowed to do in electric scooter rent and what should be done if violations are committed.

For example, electric scooters are a common sight on Riga’s streets. Scooters are often left almost anywhere, obstructing the path for other people. In such cases Jonovs proposes for municipal police to confiscate scooters and take them to a warehouse, so that businessmen have to think on ways to recover them and also motivate clients to behave more responsibly.

He also recommends establishing a ceiling for the number of electric scooters allowed on streets at any time, dividing the city into areas and organizing procurements for license to engage in electric scooter rent service provision, and also including requirements businessmen will have to comply with to work. For example, provide scooter rent services at specific points in the city.

Regulations from Riga City Council would also help set speed limits for electric scooters and establish zones within which it is not allowed to use electric scooters.

The city cannot possibly regulate residents using private electric scooters, but it will be possible to regulate large rent companies, Jonovs explains.

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Waiting for papers with open arms

Latvian Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s representatives told BNN that Riga does not have the reach to implement Jonovs’ proposed solutions to control electric scooter rent companies.

The law does not give municipal administrations the right to establish binding requirements for rental services. For example, local power may enter a market only if public interests are not provided to their full extent and if entering the market would provide goods or services that are strategically important for state or municipal development or state security.

The current team at Riga City Council likely recalls the problems that came when their predecessors decided to have the municipality sell water, as well as the pre-election promise to open pharmacies owned by the municipal administration. This makes the option to control electric scooter rent companies impossible.

Instead the municipality looks to CSDD to bring order to Riga’s streets.

Riga City Council’s Transport Department’s Public Relations project lead Ilze Dimante told BNN that currently her office lacks the means to punish scooter renters for abandoning scooters in the middle of streets. The reason is that the law simply does not provide any such means. This is why it is necessary to wait for actual laws.

Dimante stresses – Riga has talked with rent companies and has voiced support for electric scooters, but not to the point when abandoned scooters obstruct the way for other people.

Europe-wide headache

Looking at the level of worry expressed over this issue by Denmark, one might ask – what can Riga do? It is worth mentioning here that Copenhagen is one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in Europe. It would be no exaggeration to say that Danish people learn to right a bicycle first and then to walk. The lure of technological advancement and recklessness make a very dangerous cocktail.

France has seen entire groups rise to ensure people who received injuries involving electric scooters are paid compensation. The proposed solution – electric scooter drivers should purchase insurance. This would help create a fund to assist victims of scooter-related accidents even if the perpetrator leaves the scene and becomes unreachable.

All this presents a considerable headache for Europe. Meanwhile, hoping to enjoy the final month of summer, residents hop on scooters in Copenhagen, Paris and Riga. Legislators have a choice – work now or wait for the first major court case.

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