New scooter rules raise questions

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New traffic rules for electric scooters went into effect Tuesday. They set speed limits, ban passengers and restrict parking, but questions are already flying over how they’ll be enforced.

It’s common to find scooters blocking sidewalks like here on Munkedamsveien in Oslo on Tuesday. Others can be seen scattered in the background, but can now be towed in at their operator’s expense. PHOTO: NewsInEnglish.no/Morten Møst

The goal is to eliminate the chaos and even danger that rolled into Norwegian cities when the scooters, called elsparksykler, first started being placed around town a few years ago. They’re both loved and hated, and thousands more of them are due on the streets of Oslo alone this summer.

While operators have raked in profits, the lack of regulation has led to what newspaper Aftenposten called “wild west” conditions. Scooters litter sidewalks and streets, are found lying in gutters or even dumped into the fjord. Reckless riders have also frightened pedestrians and been badly injured themselves, often because they’re riding while drunk.

New state regulations rolled out earlier this month are meant to address such problems, and finally give local governments the power to regulate their use. As of May 18, the electric scooters can only be used at a top speed of 6 kilometers per hour when riding amidst pedestrians. Only one person can ride on each scooter (no passengers allowed) and the scooters must be parked in designated parking areas or at least well off streets and sidewalks.

Illegally parked scooters can now be picked up and towed in by city authorities, with their owner/operators liable for a fine of NOK 1,590 (USD 190) per scooter. City officials in Oslo told Aftenposten they’re in the process of setting aside new designated areas for scooter parking.

It remains unclear whether the city’s parking patrols, quick to ticket cars for any infractions of parking regulations, will now divert more attention to cracking down on scooter violations. Discussions are still underway over whether the city will also start charging scooter operators, who’ve generated profits from renting out the scooters, for use of city streets and sidewalks.

Aftenposten editorialized on Tuesday that it’s time for Norway to ban both scooters and bicycles from sidewalks and demand that they use designated bike lanes or the streets instead. Norway and Iceland, according to Aftenposten, are the only two countries in Europe that still allow cycling on sidewalks meant for pedestrians.

That may end up raising more conflicts between cyclists, scooters and motorists, with the latter being the only ones paying tolls and taxes for road use. Norway’s Supreme Court recently ruled against a cyclist who’d been fined for using a busy city street and therefore hindering rush-hour vehicle traffic around him. That effectively ordered him to use a nearby bike lane that’s also used by pedestrians.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund