Transport Administration: Summer means e-scooter safety back on agenda

A Bolt e-scooter (photo is illustrative).
A Bolt e-scooter (photo is illustrative). Source: Bolt

As summer approaches, the issue of e-scooters and their interface with other road and sidewalk users has re-emerged, while the likelihood of accidents – often involving alcohol – will continue to rise.

The typical profile of an e-scooter rider who comes to grief is a younger male, aged 18-34, with a cocky or aggressive style of riding, one expert says, while the most common type of accident is one involving a roll-over or the scooter rider falling off, statistics from the Transport Administration (Transpordiamet) reveal.

Rental e-scooters have a top speed of around 20 km/h on the flat, while the speed is sometimes limited in areas such as public parks and squares. Privately-owned models are often much more powerful, and consequently faster.

Last year, figures show that 221 accidents involving an e-scooter, either a privately-owned or a rented vehicle, were reported.

These figures include all types of accident – both solo crashes and collisions with pedestrians, other scooter riders or cyclists, as well as with cars and other road vehicles.

So far this year, 24 accidents have been recorded, though it is still fairly early on in e-scooter-riding season.

Marika Luik, an expert with the Transport Board's prevention department, said: "75 percent of accidents are those involving the collision or overturning of a single vehicle.

"In general, the problem is that riders do not understand how to properly ride an electric scooter, or the brakes are inadequate or road surface and traffic environment has not been maintained well enough," Luik said.

While many minor falls and incidents may go unreported, in any case it is difficult to report individuals who have ridden dangerously.

In fact, the only EU country to have license plates as mandatory for e-scooters is Germany; installing such a system here would require many changes to the regulations, Luik went on.

If the miscreant is using a rental scooter such as those offered by Bolt or Tuul, or is a courier for a food delivery service such as Wolt, or that operated by Bolt, though this requires noting down the exact time and location of the incident, as scooter riders and food couriers may often flee the scene of an accident which they may have been culpable in.

A statement must then be given to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), Luik said.

While most incidents are minor, fatalities involving e-scooter riders have been reported, including one in Tartu 2020, where the rider was killed, while an incident in Sillamäe on April 11 this year, in which reportedly a 36-year-old man riding an e-scooter died after riding into a 74-year-old woman crossing an unregulated pedestrian crossing, is still the subject of a PPA investigation.

The deceased had allegedly showed signs of intoxication.

Peak season for e-scooters – the for-hire versions were first rolled-out, literally, in summer 2019 – is soon approaching, with the warmer weather.

Luik said: "The season begins at the end of May and starts to quieten down a bit at the end of August, but if the weather is still good in September to October, people will still ride e-scooters and accidents will happen.

Peak time for road traffic accidents as a whole in Estonia is also in June, according to Transport Administration figures.

Most of the registered e-scooter accidents take place in densely-populated settlements such as Tallinn, while up to a third of those who come to grief are intoxicated.

This tallies with the fact that most accidents happen after 6 p.m. and particularly on Saturdays.

So far this year, this trend remains the case, Luik said.

Additionally, even during day-time, fast-moving or arrogant e-scooter riders or Bolt/Wolt food couriers can cause stress for pedestrians and road users, even if no accident takes place.

Luik added the agency is taking steps to raise public awareness over the summer months, in an attempt to encourage e-scooter users to kill their speed, for instance when crossing the street or when nearing pedestrians.

An additional nuisance connected with rental scooters is parking; while it is not uncommon to see a scooter parked in a way which obstructs a public thoroughfare, such as a sidewalk, apps often require the user to take a photograph of the parked vehicle, on concluding the journey, and warnings can be issued to those who mis-park.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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