Brussels to enforce helmet after first casualty on e-scooter?
After the US and France, the first fatal accident involving an e-scooter has now occurred in Belgium as well. The accident happened last month in Brussels, but the news and the facts only became known now. Brussels State Secretariat for Road Safety, Bianca Debaets (CD&V), has an investigation carried out into whether the compulsory use of helmets for e-scooters can be introduced.
The accident took place on the night of 16 to 17 April on the Haachtsesteenweg in the small borough of Haren in Brussels. At around 0.30 a.m., a 41-year-old man was found seriously injured on a bench, with the e-scooter at his feet. He was taken to the hospital, where he died of his injuries on 18 April.
Because it was not immediately clear what had happened, the public prosecutor had the images from surveillance cameras in the neighborhood analyzed. These showed that the man had crashed with the e-scooter and that no other persons or vehicles were involved in the accident.
Compulsory helmet wear
In Brussels, it is not compulsory to wear a helmet on a bicycle, but not on an e-scooter or a monowheel either, two new and very popular means of transport in the city. After the fatal accident, State Secretary Debaets wants to investigate whether wearing a helmet can be made compulsory for the latter two means of transport.
“These types of accidents have less serious consequences if users were to wear a helmet. I have an investigation carried out into whether the compulsory helmet wear for e-scooters can be introduced. I’m pro”, she wrote on Twitter.
Both doctors and the traffic safety institute, VIAS, argue that users of e-scooters should always wear a helmet. In the US, there have been at least 1.545 scooter-related accidents since 2017, including several fatalities. In France, five people have already died.
In Belgium, too, doctors have noticed an increase in multiple concussions, injuries to the head or skull, nose fractures, but as injuries to the spine or fractures to the upper limbs as a result of e-scooter accidents.
In any case, a government decree will soon come into force in the Brussels Region to specify the rules related to the use of e-scooters. The new decree will regulate the limit on the number of e-scooters in the street, the installation of drop-off points, the possible issuing of fines for abuse or even areas prohibited for parking or dedicated for this purpose.
Regulating the use
To take a decision on a regulation that applies to the entire Brussels-Capital Region, the opinion of the 19 municipalities is essential. The City of Brussels wants to welcome e-scooters to the city, as it is perceived as an alternative to the car that has a lot of potential.
The municipality still wishes to regulate their use by prohibiting, for example, their passage on major commercial and tourist routes. For its part, the municipality of Saint-Gilles has already announced the 18 places in which e-scooters will not be able to travel, such as the Parvis de Saint-Gilles, Place Louise or the entire Barrière de Saint-Gilles.
Reality on the ground
The Brussels Ministry of Mobility and Public Works believes that this new regulation will be effective by the end of the year, the time to see how the ‘reality on the ground’ evolves in the coming months before taking decisions.
“The Brussels Region was the first European city to regulate the use of e-scooters”, explains Marc Debont, the press officer of Pascal Smet (sp.a), the Minister for Mobility and Public Works, although he does point out that users are subject to traffic regulations. The City of Paris, for example, has taken inspiration from the Brussels example to set up its own law.
No more law of the jungle
Paris recently announced some new rules concerning the use of e-scooters that will come into effect in September 2019. The French Minister of Transport, Elisabeth Borne, said that motorized personal transport devices, such as e-scooters, do not have a legal existence, but they will now be subject to rules to put an end to “the law of the jungle”.
One of the first measures put in place for the City of Paris’ 25.000 or so e-scooters, will be a ban on sidewalks, under penalty of a fine of 135 euros. The fine will be 35 euro for non-compliance with traffic regulations. In urban areas, it will be mandatory to use cycle paths or paths limited to 50 km/hour. In the long term, Paris wants to make parking mandatory in certain areas so as not to disturb pedestrians.