Cyprus’ take on E-Scooters
E-scooters have been considered a revolutionary transportation method around Europe mainly because they contribute towards ensuring a sustainable and energy-efficient approach to urban mobility. Users of e-scooters tend to replace their trips by foot, bicycles and public transport with electric scooters. However, scooters have not impacted trips by car, possibly due to their lack of certain safety features as well as their maximum speed capacity, which is inadequate for long trips and predominantly, due to the uncertainty which arises from lack of regulation thereof. The issue that arises amongst national officials in the Republic of Cyprus (hereinafter referred to as “Cyprus”) is that the European Union has yet to set down regulations and/ or directives which will address the regulation of electric scooters. Therefore, the majority of member states appear to not have (or not have adequate) national legislative frameworks in place safely regulating and/ or governing the use of e-scooters and to this extent, this signifies the lack of legislative instruments regarding its safe use.
Cyprus, like many other European Union member states, has yet to amend its applicable relevant national legislation and address certain gap areas. The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works proposed a draft bill in August 2020 titled “the Regulation of the Movement of Bicycles and other Personal Mobility Devices (Amendment) Law of 2020”. The bill undertakes to define Personal Mobility Devices as well as what falls under the term Device. Under the draft, Personal Mobility Devices include a self-propelled construction with any form of energy, which can transport a sitting or standing person for driving, the device has a steering wheel and at least one drive axle as well as at least two wheels as contact points. Further, the draft includes the legal arrangements of the devices’ movements which signifies the geographical areas the devices will be allowed to be used by the public as well as the locations where use of the devices are prohibited. Additional matters that are addressed under the draft are, inter alia, the regulation of market control, licensing procedures of rentals and cases of offenses as well as the potential amendment of the Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulations of 1984–2014.
Notwithstanding the significance of the prospective legislation, the finalisation of the drafting of the bill and subsequent procedures to pass the respective bill before the House of Representatives, were postponed. Reasons for the postponement may be due to e-scooter’s novelty as well as the short period of time they have been in use. Nonetheless, the Cyprus police have put forward their suggestions regarding the draft bill in question and have stressed the urgency and increasing need to implement a legislation regulating its safe use.
As already stated above, certain member states have published on a national level, guidelines and/ or policies regarding the use and mistreatment of e-scooters and most restrictions concern the minimum age of the users, speed limit and the geographical areas allowed to ride an e-scooter. For example, Belgium has implemented a quite smart strategy when it comes to e-scooters as it has implemented the same laws as it has for bicycles.
Many may argue that the increase in accidents being reported concerning e-scooters leads to a need to implement a respective legislation to ensure the regulation of e-scooters and promotion of safe use. The legislation should address matters such as the training of riders as it is unclear whether riders will need to have a driving license or training license. Further, the parking, charging and accessibility of the scooters will have to be clarified, as riders will need to know whether there are checkpoints for charging and designated parking spaces for e-scooters. An interesting idea is the use of a mobile application by the public, where riders will be able to locate the nearest available e-scooters using GPS and rent it using the application. This is already in motion in Limassol. The rental procedure is simplified, and it is incredibly convenient for pedestrians who no longer wish to walk to their destination. This is a smart and easy way to use e-scooters on a daily basis throughout the city.
It is indisputable that e-scooters must have standards that riders should know and comply with prior to and throughout their use. As already mentioned, the need for allocated spaces where e-scooters are permitted to be ridden, parked and charged and the need for implementing a minimum age requirement, are deemed as vital, particularly with scooters that have a speed capacity which exceeds the speed limits. E-scooters are currently not regulated as vehicles and therefore, this can cause a significant issue in case of, amongst others, an accident, as the police will not be able to categorise the vehicle properly in their reports. Other criteria that are significant are compliance with safety rules, training requirements and the local government’s competencies regarding micro-mobility management. Moreover, because there is no national legislation regulating e-scooters, it is difficult for the police to distinguish the person at fault in an accident as well as assess the penalties to be imposed in case the scooter rider is the one at fault. Hence, even though e-scooters have been proven to be convenient and easy to use, the lack of regulation thereof and the legislation’s gaps may render the use of scooters unsafe and risky from a regulatory perspective, both for governments as well as the public.