If you haven’t yet seen a few scooters stacked up in the middle of a pavement or in front of doorways, then you’ve definitely seen them clogging up your social media feed, with everyone showing off the worst places they’ve found them parked.
There are even reports of elderly residents locking themselves up in their homes due to fears of pavements being blocked by parked scooters, or being hit by dangerous drivers, as well as people with mobility or visual impairments finding it more and more difficult to walk on the pavement with the obstacles created by these scooters.
Many politicians have said that they are aware of this issue, and have been conveying their thoughts on social media, with some even vying to ban them until a solution is found. But this seems needlessly overdramatic and will guarantee an increase in the horrendous congestion found on Maltese roads.
Politicians keep using the excuse of irresponsible users to try to ban scooters in Malta (while of course banking on the anger you feel when they mention the elderly, people with disabilities, or mothers with pushchairs having to walk on the road), when they should instead be keeping the companies who rent out and own a majority of the 2,259 scooters now on our roads, responsible for the enforcement of parking the scooters in an adequate space.
1. Scooter Parking Zones
E-scooter companies and the government must work in tandem to place multiple parking zones across the islands made especially for scooters (with integrated charging stations in each one), thus solving the problem of parking them where cars should be, or where pedestrians can walk safely.
Users who park anywhere else would be fined by the scooter company (depending on the fine they would have to pay if parked elsewhere). The companies would be able to enforce this since they already require all the necessary details of their users and vehicles, making it easy for them to track down perpetrators and enforce integrity.
In July 2022, Bolt published a statement claiming they were testing out a new AI to help clamp down on haphazard parking, but it was still in the testing phase, so time will tell if this AI will help in solving this issue or not.
2. Monetary Punishment/Encouragement
Another potential solution would be to make people who use e-scooters place a deposit (possibly based on the fine they would have to pay if parked in front of a garage or on a double yellow line) before their use. This can be done by using the tracking devices already installed in the scooters.
Another method that may be less harsh: give an incentive to users through a discount on their next use if they park it where they are supposed to.
Authorities need to enhance enforcement and see that the use of scooters does not impinge on the safety and independence of visually-impaired persons.
3. Making them more visible
On AirMalta’s website, the authorities also recommend “wear a high visibility vest”. While this is both a good and safe idea, it is dubious that the local youth would be casually carrying around such a vest, let alone the hundreds of tourists that use these scooters.
Making the scooters themselves more visually striking by adding high visibility paint to certain areas on the scooter would be a better and more implementable idea. This would help car drivers see oncoming scooters and help avoid any collisions.
This is already being done some companies, such as Bolt, painted their scooters a highlighted green to help with this issue, others, such as Whizascoot as well as the majority of privately-owned scooters, are mostly painted black.
Another potential way to make these scooters more visible, especially at night, is to set the back lights to flash in an attentively striking pattern for other motorists to more easily distinguish what the light is coming from and act accordingly.
4. Enforcement of the Rules/Additional Enforcers
While increasing police and wardens to ward off any scooter users from parking haphazardly may be a good idea, it would be more beneficial if they were to divert their attention towards the massive hunks of metal with powerful engines moving at 50km/hr instead of the feeble scooters barely passing 20km/hr. But judging from how busy they seem to be, they could do both jobs at once.
“E-scooters are allowed on urban roads and cycle lanes but banned on arterial and certain distributor roads with fines of €200 if this rule is ignored. The fine goes up to €500 for those caught on scooters in tunnels and underpasses.“Source: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/transport-malta-enforce-e-scooter-rules-councils-concerned.972779
5. Implementing Artificial Noise into the Scooters
Similar to electric cars, which in July 2019 were regularised to make a sound when moving or turned on, scooters could also be made in such a way to produce some noise so that the visually impaired (and nearby drivers alike) would be able to hear them coming. This safety procedure should be added to protect whoever may be using one of these electric scooters from surrounding cars, trucks, and bikes to limit the already many road accidents we have been experiencing.
These changes would drastically improve not just the experience for users, but also for pedestrians, people with disabilities or those using wheelchairs, and the abundant drivers in this country.
Such changes can be done without any drastic ban, while also encouraging more people to use scooters since less money is needed for a 15-minute scooter ride than buying a car along with insurance, petrol and maintenance costs.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.
Written by: Matthew J. Cassar
HAVE AN INTEREST, IDEA, OR AN OPINION?
Do you have an interest you’d like to tell others about? Or an opinion you’d like to share with the world? From politics to culture and sports, message us if you would like your articles published!