Traffic > Decree

To government: How not to regulate electric scooters

Germany and Singapore got it wrong, so what hope do we have?

E-scooters are now popular with active people. PHOTO FROM TIER MOBILITY

The popularity of electric kick scooters is increasing rapidly at the moment, with more and more people discovering that this way of getting around presents a viable alternative to cars and public transportation. As the number of these and similar machines increases around the world, lawmakers are becoming more and more aware of their existence as well as the regulatory challenges that come with them. One country has just presented a shocking, if unsurprising, example of how not to regulate this new means to get from A to B. Germany’s proposed new law for the regulation of Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEV), as these devices are officially called, is bound to kill off electric kick scooters as a useful option for travel on public roads in the country.

The old stereotype about Germany being so well organized is only partially true. Trains have long stopped running on time; prestigious building projects like the new Berlin airport are years behind schedule and billions above budget; and where road mobility is concerned, the all-powerful car industry in the country has until recently preferred to cheat its way into the future with dirty diesel engines instead of embracing electrification. Maybe that’s why new rules governing the use of electric kick scooters due to come into force are extremely restrictive in their nature, making the real-life usage of these devices almost impossible.

Who wants to sit in traffic when you can do this? PHOTO FROM WIND MOBILITY

For starters, any PLEVs used on public roads are limited to a top speed of 20km/h and must also use bicycle paths wherever possible. Only if there is no bike lane to ride on may users take to the actual road. The draft legislation reads like it was written by someone who really doesn’t like e-scooters, even stipulating that riders must stick to the right, ride in single file, and allow cyclists to overtake them when necessary. All e-scooters are also required to carry insurance, which in this case means they must have a number plate similar to motorbikes, with all the paperwork and bureaucracy this entails.

Philippine users would be well advised to prepare for the day when government suddenly feels the need to put rules around these transportation devices

There’s also a power limit of 500W for electric kick scooters and 1,200W for self-balancing machines, and all such devices must comply with minimum requirements for driving dynamics. This means they have to have handlebars for steering, two brakes that act independent of each other, a full set of lights, and a horn or bell. Classifying e-scooters and similar machines more like motorbikes than bicycles also has another negative side effect: Carrying your scooter with you on the bus or other public transport won’t be allowed. All in all, the proposed legislation is a huge disappointment and a step backward for a country where many people are just discovering this method of traveling.

In the Philippines, electric kick scooters are just beginning to take off. PHOTO FROM MA. TRAZARRA BALDESANCHO

Singapore also recently unveiled new regulations that pretty much eliminated e-scooters as a useful way to get around, and Philippine users would be well advised to prepare for the day when government suddenly feels the need to put rules around these transportation devices. All it will take is one key event—such as an accident with national media coverage—and politicians will have a knee-jerk reaction that could have a negative impact. Places like Singapore or Germany may seem far away, but legislators will likely look toward these countries when the time to regulate electric kick scooters comes. Anyone wishing to continue using them in Metro Manila had better be ready to defend their corner when that moment arrives.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring.