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WBU Position Statement on electric scooters

...and other forms of micro-mobility devices

A global trend 

WBU and our constituency of blind and partially sighted people in many localities globally, are increasingly witnessing the use of electric vehicles such as E-scooters along with other non-motorized vehicles. A motorized E-scooter is powered by an electric motor. It is any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, and a floorboard that is designed for someone to stand on when riding. 

E-Scooters are an example of new technology that expands “personal” transport options. They provide a relatively cheap mode of transport that is more accessible than walking or cycling for some people and can go where buses don’t. Also “going for a scoot” is providing people with a little bit of fun that can be really important for their mental health.

scooters-cnib.jpg
 (Photo: Courtesy of CNIB Foundation)

This new technology needs to be managed within national and local transport safety regulations to ensure that it is safe and used properly. If the regulations are inadequate to deal with the new technology, they should be updated before the technology is used. It is not acceptable to take a ‘wait and see’ approach.
Most of our member countries are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This establishes a number of obligations including that government policies and regulations should not be regressive to disabled people’s participation and safety. 

As with other vehicles, inconsiderate and careless use of E-Scooters creates an extreme hazard, and is a safety risk, especially when used on pedestrian pathways. (Note that the term, pedestrian pathways, used throughout this document is similar to footpaths, pavements and sidewalks.)

We wish to emphasize here that the presence of E-scooters on pedestrian pathways poses a danger for all pedestrians: children, older persons as well as Persons with Disabilities are endangered by having to share a supposedly safe walking environment with devices that are traveling at high speed and little or no sound at all.

Persons with Disabilities are particularly vulnerable on pedestrian pathways where they are supposed to be safe from ‘traffic’. Blind and partially sighted people are especially concerned because their safety is at risk. There are also general public concerns around safety of older people and children.

The main problems are:
  1. The quiet nature of these devices,
  2. Excessive speed on pedestrian pathways,
  3. Randomly parked or abandoned scooters (particularly when lying down) as those can be obstacles for blind, partially sighted and older, frail people to fall over and trip on,
  4. E-Scooters are often blocking tactile guidance systems, traffic lights and walls which are essential for the independent mobility of blind and partially sighted people,
  5. A lack of warning systems,
  6. Lack of regulations and/or a piece-meal approach by local government/territorial authorities on where the use of E-Scooters is permitted creates unclarity among the public and has led to that scooters are trafficking pedestrian pathways,
  7. Lack of traffic rules for micro-mobility devices inflicts on the city’s possibilities to sanction users which are not abiding to traffic regulations or “common sense” of traffic behaviour,
  8. Lack of enforcement should regulations that prevent such devices being used on pedestrian pathways, be breached.

Many of these factors are mostly driven by a lack of social responsibility in the use of these devices, including by the companies who often park multiple units ‘in formation’ in places where they create an obstacle.

Possible solutions:
  1. If E-Scooters are to be permitted in a city or urban settlement, cities and local governments should be influenced so as to exhaust possibilities for necessary consultation. 
  2. There should be full regulation of micro-mobility devices (including E-Scooters) for safety reasons, just as there are for vehicles and other modes of transport.
  3. Regulations should require that E-Scooters with road-going specifications are not present on pedestrian pathways and only used in spaces designed and designated for wheeled vehicles.
  4. E-Scooters and other micro-mobility devices, which can travel at or above a certain speed should be classified as motor vehicles and be subject to the same rules that apply to motor vehicles.
  5. Approved zones for micro-mobility could be defined and enforced through geo-fencing technology. The technology in these devices can be set to meet different requirements in different locations or zones.
  6. When regulations permit the use of E-Scooters on public walking spaces, they should have a built-in speed limitation, lights/beepers, and be parked appropriately (including by suppliers). 
  7. The public could be asked via a public awareness campaign to move E-Scooters if they are creating a potential hazard.
  8. All E-Scooters and micro-mobility devices should be tested and approved for safety purposes by appropriate agencies prior to their going on public sale or being offered for hire. 
  9. Micro-mobility and E-Scooter hire providers should be legally regulated and licenced by Government.
  10. Riders should be required to wear safety equipment such as helmets.
It is lastly vital to note that enforcement is the key to continued safety and access. If regulations and legislation are being ignored, the consequences might be dire. Great policies and standards are only as good as enforcement thereof.

Should you have any further questions please contact: 

Mr. Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius 
Program officer, Accessibility in Smart Cities Initiative 
World Blind Union 
+254 0757 0757 04