Malaga is one of Spain’s busiest tourist cities, a major port and gateway to the beautiful Andalusian countryside and beaches of the Costa del Sol. The cafés in Malaga’s redeveloped port area are great for a cold drink and some people-watching, and one thing that you’ll notice immediately are the e-scooter riders working their way along the sea front.
Malaga is just one of dozens of European cities where electric scooters are the norm and if you head a few hours up the coast to Barcelona and Valencia, it’s the commuters who are embracing the electric scooter. E-scooter riders share the wide pedestrianised boulevards and shared paths, and both riders and pedestrians are fully aware of each other. It certainly works in these cities, where pedestrians are used to looking out for both bikes and cars.
So why are e-scooters so popular in these locations? Well, not are they only much cheaper than owning a car or taking public transport, they can also get you to from point to point at a roughly similar speed to crawling in traffic, or waiting for a bus or train. Over short distances, they can be a lot faster too.
Cheaper and cleaner
Although there’s an up-front cost, e-scooters aren’t prohibitively expensive either. Once they’re up and running, the cost of recharging the battery is nominal. You don’t need to pay any road tax, maintenance costs are practically non-existent, and they produce no emissions.
With the growth in popularity of e-scooters, the Spanish government has stepped in to legislate, to ensure that they are used safely and in accordance with the law. Since October 2019, Spanish riders are no longer allowed on the pavement and require an e-scooter circulation certificate. There’s also a maximum speed limit of 25km/h, and offences you’d usually see associated with driving, like ‘riding under the influence’, are now punishable by fines and potentially even a full driving ban.
From a safety perspective, these changes are welcome. Negligent riding on a powered scooter that could reach speeds of up to 30mph is asking for trouble in busy city centres, so protecting pedestrians and other road users is a sensible move. For the conscientious riders in Spain who stick to the limits, stay on roads or dedicated lanes, wear hi-vis clothing and take out insurance however, the e-scooter can continue being a safe and clean mode of transport.
The move to legislate, rather than imposing an outright ban, looks like a smart move by Spain.
Spain’s cities suffer from the same traffic congestion problems as ours in the UK, and getting people out of their cars and on to e-scooters or bikes, is likely to be key to unlocking Spain’s gridlocked streets in its major conurbations.
In fact, experts at traffic information supplier Inrix, have hailed electric scooters and bikes as a solution to the congestion problem in major cities. Cities could “reap significant benefits” if just a small percentage of journeys were carried out on an e-scooter or bike, its research found.
A different tale in the UK
Unfortunately in the UK, getting to work on an e-scooter is currently a complete non-starter.
Classed as ‘powered transporters’ under the Road Traffic Act of 1988, e-scooters must conform with the requirements that cars, motorbikes, trucks and other vehicles are governed by, including technical safety standards (such as the MOT), taxation and insurance. As it stands, e-scooters cannot pass any of these requirements, so they’re outlawed completely in public – with a maximum fine of £300 for electric scooter owners caught riding on the pavement. You could also face fines for not wearing a helmet or ignoring traffic lights and road signs.
However, electric scooters are fairly tame compared to mopeds and motorbikes, with the majority of models, like the Xiaomi Mi M365 model stocked by Halfords, reaching a maximum of 15.5mph or so (about the same as running at high speed). Some manufacturers produce models that can reach 30mph, but they are definitely in the minority.
The findings from Halfords’ latest survey show that there is a growing appetite for e-scooter legislation for usage beyond private land in the UK. The safe usage of e-scooters has the potential to revolutionise the way we travel. In fact, 55% of the public think e-scooters are good for the environment, while 53% think they could reduce congestion. But what about the dangers? The number of serious cycling accidents has been steadily decreasing since the 1980s, even with an increase in riders, so a mode of transport that is often slower than the humble bike should theoretically create fewer accidents, even on roads.
If e-scooters were regulated and licensed, the safety factor could be increased even further with education and simple accessories like helmets, lights and reflective strips. The real talking point when it comes to e-scooter usage should be around emissions and carbon footprint.
Are e-scooters environmentally friendly?
We all know how damaging internal combustion cars, buses and to some extent trains are to the environment – to the point where people are protesting in the streets to try and enact change. Cycling has long been touted as the ideal replacement for cars, especially in busy urban areas, but the changeover hasn’t been as vigorous as hoped.
Electric scooters provide an alternative to cycling with the same environmental benefits. Granted, you’re still exposed to the wind and rain, but electric scooters are a more effortless and sweat-free way of getting to work, which may suit some when cycling does not. And for those who are concerned about storage, you can even fold your scooter up and stash it under a desk when you get to work
Even though there’s a battery on-board, which technically requires electricity to charge, the amount of power required to ferry a passenger and lightweight scooter to and from the office or to college or university is minimal compared to fully charging an electric car, or filling a tank of petrol.
Why e-scooters could lead the transport revolution – with some help
With an environmentally friendly, safe and potentially more practical method of getting to and from work, it’s no wonder that many people in the UK want e-scooter law to catch up with the rest of the world.
Unrestricted models of e-scooter and a lack of regulation are seen as the main roadblocks to progress, but these are both problems that can be solved easily. Many manufacturers limit the top speed of their scooters, and retailers like Halfords offer customers an annual scooter servicing option at the point of sale, which could easily be made mandatory to act as an ‘e-scooter MOT’.
As it stands, the UK is lagging severely behind the rest of Europe when it comes to providing alternative modes of transport. It seems that politicians are quick to condemn fossil fuels and aim for fully electric cars by the year 2030, but aren’t geared up to push through quick legislation to get a ready-made replacement safely onto the roads.
Halfords has witnessed a rapidly growing interest in e-scooters as online searches on our website show. Many customers view them as a fun way to spend their free time. Along with e-bikes, we believe e-scooters have also got the potential to revolutionise the way we travel and can help address pollution and congestion problems.
What is your view on e-scooters? Have your say by filling out our survey:
Want to try out an e-scooter? It’s perfectly legal to buy one and use it on private land (with permission). Halfords stock a wide range of the latest e-scooters and accessories, along with servicing to keep yours in top shape, so check out the range today.