Ready? Go! Kazakhstan to Regulate E-scooters

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Фото: © Pixabay.com 17.05.2023 15:47 1866

I unlocked my phone and opened a scooter-sharing application. Then I rent the one and started my way to the office. The ride took 5 minutes and cost around three hundred tenge. Since the last year, it was my everyday lifestyle. But now everything would change due to new regulations.

Last week the lower house of the Parliament amended traffic management legislation. The new regulation sets speed limits and restrictions on electric scooters’ movement. According to the amendments, electric scooters’ speed should not exceed 25 km/h. Furthermore, it is legal on public roads, cycle and bus lanes. Anyone over 18 can use an e-scooter on public roads but is required to wear a helmet and hold a valid driving license. On sidewalks, the speed limit does not exceed 6 km/h.

E-scooter riders must walk at pedestrian crossings and intersections, MP Ekaterina Smishlayeva said on Wednesday. This approach is a compromise solution for the owners of e-scooters and pedestrians, she said.

“Speed limit on sidewalks protects pedestrians. Even though it will be quite difficult to regulate, this speed is approximately equal to the speed of the pedestrian flow and is determined visually. In general, the main problem in the development of this type of transport is the lack of urban infrastructure such as special lanes. Taking into account the expansion of private electric scooters and the emergence of kick-sharing services in Kazakhstan, the load of existing infrastructure capacity will only increase”, said Smishlayeva.

The new regulation would decline the use of e-scooter, said business representatives on Monday while discussing the issue at the Atameken Chamber of Entrepreneurs’ meeting. The speed limit will lose the main function of an e-scooter: mobility.

In 2022, about 7 million the usage of e-scooter were registered, says the Chairman of the Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Almaty Auez Taymbetov at the meeting.

“I dare to say, it is more popular than the metro. If we look at last year's statistics, 150 cases of accidents involving electric scooters were documented. Of course, both security of riders and the interests of business should be taken into account”, said Taymbetov.

In Almaty, four e-scooter-sharing companies operate, their total fleet is around 150,000 units. Whoosh, a scooter-sharing company, welcomes the initiatives of the Parliament. 

“Updating the rules of the road for electric scooters is an important process designed to ensure the comfort and safety of not only scooters but also pedestrians and motorists. Practice in neighbouring countries, for example, in Belarus and Russia, where new traffic rules that take into account electric scooters have already come into force, shows that with the adoption of clear traffic rules, it is easier for all citizens on the streets and roads to coexist”, says the press service of the company.

The active growth of electric scooters, gyro scooters, and mono wheels on the streets, as well as administrative offences, and injuries in road accidents involving such vehicles, caused a significant public discussion, says Oles Koterlin, Research assistant at the Maqsut Narikbayev University. Therefore, a new legal regulation is necessary, he added.

“This is not only a problem for Kazakhstan, but also for most countries of the world”, says Koterlin. All countries took different approaches to resolve the problem of electric scooters: from a total ban on their use, like in Paris; to partial regulation exclusively for electric scooters in the US; and comprehensive rules for all innovative vehicles, in Germany.

In the US, different states have their rules, and some are stricter than others. In many states, the minimum age to ride an electric scooter is 16 years old, but some states are more liberal. For instance, Virginia has an age 14 limit, and Utah sets its restriction for those 15 years and above. All riders in Alabama require an M License for their scooter, which means people under 14 years old, cannot use them. Anyone under 16 must wear a helmet, but those above 16 aren't legally required to do so. However, Pennsylvania and Delaware do not allow electric scooters on public roads.

Electric scooters are legal to use in the UK, however, there are lots of restrictions. It is allowed on private land with the landowner’s permission. But using e-scooter is illegal on public roads, on pavements, in cycle lanes and pedestrian-only areas. The UK Government classed e-scooter as ‘powered transporters’. Therefore, they fall under the same laws and regulations that apply to all motor vehicles.

Italy lowered the speed limit of e-scooters to 20 km/h on roads and 6 km/h in pedestrian areas. Riders have to provide a formal ID. France introduced new regulations due to the death of a pedestrian hit by a scooter. Currently, the speed limit should not exceed 10 km/h in some areas of the French capital, including around key tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.

The authorities of Oslo, the capital of Norway, banned nighttime e-scooter rentals. Also, Helsinki prohibited the use of e-scooter after midnight on weekends and lowered their speed limit.

“The bill adopted by the Majlis is part of a global trend to regulate the use of such vehicles. The lack of proper legal regulation entails several problems from a legal point of view. For example, the inability to prosecute the user of an electric scooter who was driving while intoxicated, since an electric scooter was not considered a vehicle in the understanding of the law”, says Koterlin.

Although e-scooter-sharing companies welcome the regulations, they expect such bills to be developed and adopted with the participation of competent experts in the field of road safety and urban planning, as well as representatives of the kick-sharing and insurance industry.

“We are glad to see that this position is shared by the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of the Republic of Kazakhstan "Atameken". On Monday, government and business representatives hold a special meeting and had the opportunity to openly express their concerns and discuss the risks that new restrictions pose for scooters.

In particular, industry representatives are concerned about the speed limit of 6 km/h on sidewalks. This speed is below the speed of a running person, and it is extremely difficult for the user to maintain balance. (As difficult as riding a bicycle at low speed). The priority of the movement of scooters alongside roads also causes concern”, says the Whoosh press service.

According to the representative of the company, this requirement will force scooters to move to the side of the road, where they will create additional danger. The company hopes further cooperation with the competent authorities will minimize risks and maintain maximum convenience for e-scooter riders.

The concerns of kick-sharing companies are reasonable to consider. Electric scooters are fast becoming the most popular way to cruise cities around the world. They are environmentally friendly, and less expensive than cars. Most importantly, investments poured into e-scooter and kick-sharing companies. For instance, within a year after scooter manufacturer Bird introduced their ride-sharing scooter to the market, the value of the program reached $2 billion.

Meanwhile, the kick-sharing business in Kazakhstan is just begun to thrive and generate income. For example, the number of Whoosh riders increased to 246 thousand people in 2023, which is 47% more than in 2022. The total sales of the "Jet Sharing" company have doubled in 2 years. The company provides jobs for more than 1,200 people in Kazakhstan, and the last year paid more than 458 million tenge taxes.

Koterlin, who examines e-scooter regulations, says kick-sharing services have to accomplish several significant tasks. It is necessary to control exactly where the user plans to make a move. To drive on public roads requires a driver's license of any category, a protective helmet and clothing with reflective elements in the dark. “Such rules significantly limit the activities of companies that rent electric scooters”, he adds.

Another problem with the new regulation is the control of the speed limit. He points out that the Sergek cameras cannot control the speed of electric scooters on public roads, because these vehicles do not have state license plates.

“To control the speed on pedestrian and bicycle paths, it is necessary to create additional infrastructure, the formation of a bicycle or pedestrian police patrols”, says Koterlin.

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