Brussels’ booming e-scooters are growing safety issue
Around 4.000 free-floating electric scooters have been riding around Brussels for over six months. In addition to the issue of civility, there is a growing safety issue. In the first place for the e-scooter driver himself, but also for pedestrians who are victime in 8% of cases.
According to an American study, only 4% of riders wear a helmet. Thus, the most common injuries are head injuries (40%), fractures (32%) and bruises (28%). State Secretary, Bianca Debaets (CD&V), calls on free-floating companies to make their users sign a good conduct charter.
Free-floating mobility is booming all around the world. In Belgium, after the dawn of free-floating bicycles, electric scooters have taken over. For a little over six months, around 4.000 machines are available for short-term rent. But, they’re dividing the Belgian public. They are either loved or hated.
Just because they have become the new trend, it doesn’t mean electric scooters are above the law. Like any other mobility device, users riding them have to respect the traffic rules. When on the street or a cycling path, they can’t exceed 25 kph. On the pavement, riders have to drive at a walking pace.
But, Brussels has already added some specific rules. “Each operator must have a license granted by Brussels Mobility. There are also technical rules, such as the compulsory recharging with green electricity and the limitation to 18 kph,” explains Marc Debont, spokesperson of Brussels Mobility Minister, Pascal Smet (SP.A). Things should evolve in the next few months. In consultation with the municipalities, the Region will define zones where scooters are banned.
Ten simple safety rules
To enhance safety, VIAS has put up a small list of ten safety rules that apply to any electric scooter riders, free-floating or not. First, never ride on the pavement. Driving at walking pace is very hard with those machines. Second, wear a helmet. At 5 kph, a head injury could be fatal. Third, be visible. The institute advises riders to wear high-visibility jackets. Fourth, never drive at more than 25 kph. It’s the law.
Fifth, never take your hand off the handle. Stability is vital in riding a scooter. Sixth, small wheels and changing road surface require constant awareness. Seventh, be aware of other road users. Eight, beware of braking. A scooter’s braking distance is longer than a bicycle’s. Nine, be polite, and don’t park anywhere you like. And finally, check your insurance.
One dead, many injured
Safety is a significant concern when talking about electric scooters. In April, a rider died after hitting the edge of the pavement. Last week, two users ran into each other, sending one of them to the hospital. While the police haven’t got any real data yet, the hospital’s emergency services are ringing the bell.
According to an American study conducted among 250 users admitted to ER, 80% of patients fall by themselves. The most common injuries are head injuries (40%) fractures (32%) and bruises (28%). Plus, only 4% of riders wear a helmet. Moreover, 8% of all electric scooter accidents are pedestrians.
‘Good conduct charter’
Secretary of State for Road Safety, Bianca Debaets (CD&V), calls on free-floating companies to make their users sign a good conduct charter. “I want them to commit to respecting traffic rules, ride safely, and pack in a way that doesn’t hinder other users or pedestrians. We can’t ignore the signal from ER doctors,” adds Bianca Debaets.
American company Lime has already asked its users to sign such notice. Plus, part of its 1.500 scooters is equipped with emergency boxes that allow users to inform on any infrastructure issue. In partnership with VIAS, Lime will create a map regrouping all risk areas.