Goslar (dpa) - When the first electric scooters appeared in 2018, they were seen as modern urban mobility and hope for the turnaround in traffic. The picture has changed. Many of the e-scooters that have been officially approved in Germany since June 2019 are now a problem.
The German Road Safety Council (DVR) complains that many scooter drivers disregard traffic rules, travel illegally on sidewalks and cause accidents due to carelessness or drunkenness. Other experts are also skeptical about the development. That is why the e-scooters are a key topic at the traffic judge's day in Goslar (29 to 31 January).
"We observe that e-scooters race through pedestrian zones, force pedestrians to dodge and give themselves a free ride through penetrative ringing," complains the German Automobile Club (AvD), for example. E-scooters, which you can drive without a test from the age of 14, have to ride on the bike path. If this is missing, the scooters, which can travel up to 20 kilometers an hour, must use the road.
A study conducted by the ADAC in six cities in autumn 2019 shows that many drivers are not as strict about the regulations. A quarter of 4,000 drivers observed did not comply with the rules. Most of them were on sidewalks and in pedestrian zones.
In many cases, the scooters would also be used by people who were drunk, said Michael Mertens, deputy federal chairman of the police union (GdP). And they didn't fulfill a meaningful function in the mobility mix, says Christian Siemens from the Association of German Insurers (GDV). In cities, the scooters were mainly used by tourists who would otherwise walk.
The General German Bicycle Club (ADFC) can also gain nothing from the scooters. "They don't make a real contribution to the turnaround in traffic," says spokeswoman Stephanie Krone. "They tend to produce additional traffic." The e-scooters would also be of no use for the mobility of commuters, says AvD spokesman Engelmohr. "In any case, they are not a substitute for your own car."
The ADAC judges less strictly. He sees the e-scooters as a new mobility option. It remains to be hoped that it will significantly replace short-distance trips by car, says a spokesman. The Autoclub ACE also sees positive aspects: "If e-scooters are used to bridge the route from home to the local public transport stop, they make public transport more attractive," says spokesman Sören Heinze.
Regardless of this, many experts consider the electric scooter to be dangerous. "You stand on it relatively uncomfortably and tip over," criticizes ADFC spokeswoman Krone. And the small wheels were sensitive to bumps in the road. Martin Diebold of the AG Traffic Law of the German Lawyers' Association (DAV) complains that the scooters are difficult to steer with one hand, so that the change of direction is often not displayed when turning. "This leads to dangerous situations."
The number of injuries and hospitalizations after accidents with e-scooters is increasing dramatically, according to a study from the USA. US doctors recently reported in a specialist journal that head injuries are particularly common. The injury patterns can also be observed in Germany, said trauma surgeon Christopher Spering from Göttingen University Medical Center. This is also due to the unstable design of the scooters, as the head of the prevention section of the German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery explains.
How high the number of accidents with e-scooters in Germany is, however, unclear. There has only been a separate category for this in accident statistics since the beginning of the year. According to the Road Safety Council, however, 150 serious accidents with e-scooters have recently been counted in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. Experts are therefore demanding security measures. The traffic lawyers of the DAV and the accident research of the insurers, for example, require the e-scooters to be equipped with indicators. In addition, wider wheels should make the scooter more stable.
The German Police Union (DPolG) demands that helmets are mandatory and the Autoclub AvD requires that drivers of e-scooters will only be allowed to ride after proof of knowledge of the road traffic regulations.
Because e-scooters are on the same paths and areas as bicycles, not only the Road Safety Council demands better bike paths. Auto clubs like the ACE are also calling for “a massive and rapid expansion of the cycling infrastructure,” it says. For safe overtaking maneuvers, bike paths should be at least two meters wide.