Belgium is set to tackle an often-aggravating new feature of urban life: e-scooters.
Starting Friday, e-scooter users faced new rules to stanch rising numbers of injuries and prevent the vehicles from taking over public spaces, a source of annoyance among pedestrians, drivers and cyclists alike.
The rules will treat e-scooters as essentially motorized vehicles. They’ll be largely forbidden to anyone younger than 16, with prohibitions on driving on the pavement or having a second passenger. Parking will be relegated — sort of — to so-called drop zones. Hinting at widespread exasperation with the status quo, the rules gained sufficient parliamentary support in less than a year.
E-scooters have averted an outright ban, however, as they’ve proved their convenience to commuters and local travelers needing to bridge the last mile of their journeys. While the new rules will apply nationwide as updates to the country’s traffic code, they’ll mostly be felt in cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent, where e-scooters have become increasingly popular to get around town.
While convenient, e-scooters can also be dangerous. Last year, police registered 533 accidents that led to injury with e-scooters involved in Flanders — more than double the number seen the year before (206). Figures for the whole of Belgium in 2021 were not immediately available.
Users of e-scooters are prone to injuries to their face, because they tend to fall head over, experts have claimed — while cyclists typically fall on their sides. One Belgian surgeon compared the typical e-scooter injury to “an uppercut” during a boxing match.
If moving e-scooters can be a headache, they can also be contentious when standing still: Annoyance over badly parked e-scooters — which can block the way of pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchairs — is widespread.
Belgian politicians hope to solve this issue in their proposal, which requires shared e-scooters to be parked in fixed drop zones. This is a concern for e-scooter providers like Bird, Lime, Dott, Bolt and Tier, whose model of “free-floating” vehicles allows users to pick up and drop off a scooter anywhere they want.
Read more via Politico