New bill tackles Latvian electric scooter boom

Take note – story published 4 years and 1 month ago

A year after rental apps contributed to a scooter boom in Rīga, a bill regulating electric scooter traffic is just about complete, according to Transport Ministry representative Annija Novikova on April 18.

Just like with cars, bicycles and pedestrians - electric scooters are used both for fun and as transportation, and therefore have earned full rights as traffic participants. However their sudden widespread use, along with lack of regulations on how fast or where they can be driven, lead to disagreements and discussions on how to coexist with the other traffic participants. The debates began even starting with the definition process.

“It's a transportation device with an electric motor that can reach a maximum speed of no more than 25 km/h. This definition is a compromise between all parties,” said Novikova.

Scooters that have a greater maximum speed can be used in traffic as long as they are re-regulated to the maximum defined in the regulations so that they don't endanger cyclists or pedestrians. Latvian Automobile Association (LAMB) President Juris Zvirbulis said the lack of cycling infrastructure is another issue for electric scooters.

“Unfortunately we know that cycling infrastructure is still in its infancy in Latvia. Only separate sections have been developed, and they're not connected as a unified system. With that it was decided that electric scooters can drive both on the road and sidewalk,” said Zvirbulis.

State Police representative Juris Jančevskis said that electric scooters will be controlled the same way as other traffic participants. “This year a total of nine traffic incidents have been registered involving electric scooters. In fact in three of them the drivers were harmed,” said Jančevskis. Last year at this time there hadn't been any incidents, possibly due to the colder winter and, therefore, less scooter activity.

“Electric scooter drivers will not only be controlled, but also, with reason, they'll be held accountable, and they can also be made accountable for not complying with or not following road traffic regulations,” said Jančevskis.

The bill also says that people can legally drive electric scooters from 14 years of age, and that only one person can drive a scooter at a time. Discussions are ongoing regarding reflective elements and helmet use for drivers. Neither the government or parliament has approved the bill yet, but hopefully it'll make it to the Cabinet of Ministers by the end of the month or May.

As previously reported, electric scooter drivers are increasingly involved in traffic accident statistics. Last year in 10 months the State Police recorded 53 accidents involving electric scooters, where 35 people were injured and two died. It's estimated that around 1500 electric scooters are used in Rīga, and use of the scooters is not regulated under current law.

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