Ministry draws up electric scooter regulation changes

Bolt electric scooters parked outside of Tallinn Bus Station.
Bolt electric scooters parked outside of Tallinn Bus Station. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has proposed changes in the rules for the use of electric scooters.

The ministry has sent a draft amend to the Traffic Act for approval, which would establish regulations on the use of "light electric vehicles", including electric scooters, which were available for rent in Tallinn last summer and autumn.

"Taking scooters, which gained momentum last summer, has proven to be very popular, necessitating clear rules to keep light electric vehicles safe and to ensure the safety of all road users," minister of economic affairs Taavi Aas (Center) said, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

Electric scooters, including those privately owned, would remain confined to sidewalks and cycle lanes, and the amends would introduce a new category of "light-duty" vehicle, which would also include electric skateboards, hover boards, Segways and the like, the ministry says, transforming users into a "pedestrian driver" in the eyes of the law.

This would mean that electric scooter riders would be subject to similar requirements as apply to car drivers, including a ban on driving while intoxicated.

Concerns emerged last year about the safety of the scooters, a common sight in Tallinn as two companies, Bolt and CityBee, rolled out their hire service in close succession in late June; some accidents had been reported.

The "light-duty" vehicle category would consist of a single-person vehicle, propelled by an electric motor with a maximum power rating of 1 KW and a maximum speed of no higher than 25 km per hour.

While the Bolt and CityBee scooters, which are rented via a smartphone app, had a maximum speed limit of around 20 km per hour, more powerful private models have been available for sale.

A U.K. television presenter and social media star, Emily Hartridge, was killed in a fatal collision while riding a more powerful electric scooter in London last July.

The law also requires the vehicle have a functioning break system, a signal bell or similar, as well as reflectors or lights.

Some exceptions would apply to those vehicles with a steering wheel; vehicles which could not have lights installed for design reasons would be confined to illuminated sidewalks, cycle lanes and footpaths.

Additionally, drivers aged 10-15 would be required to have a permit to ride a bicycle, and to wear a helmet while riding.

The regulations would need to be approved by the coalition government, before being put to a Riigikogu vote.

Rental electric scooters disappeared from Tallinn's streets in late October last year, and are likely to reappear in spring. The services had not as yet been rolled out in other Estonian towns.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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