Rome slams the brakes on electric scooters

Rome, June 25, 2022: If Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck had hopped on an electric scooter instead of a Vespa in the classic movie ‘Roman Holiday’, their jaunt around the Eternal City might have ended in tears.
The number of accidents and near-misses involving two-wheelers has prompted authorities in Rome to impose some order on a booming rental market that began two years ago.
The devastation came to a head earlier this month when two American tourists attempted a nighttime raid on the Spanish Steps, causing more than 25,000 euros ($26,300) in damage to the 18th-century monument.
Caught on security footage, the couple in their twenties were fined 400 euros each.
For now, it’s remarkably easy to only need a mobile phone app to hire one of the 14,500 scooters currently available in Rome, supplied by seven licensed companies.
They are also cheap, costing only one euro to unlock the scooters and between 15 and 25 cents a minute afterwards.
And in the city known for its traffic jams and limited public transport, they attract everyone from commuters to tourists and teenagers, who often crowd the narrow bridge two at a time.
But it’s difficult to navigate the cobblestone streets of Rome’s cramped historic center, where bike lanes are virtually non-existent, leading some scooter riders to weave dangerously around cars.
“They cut you off. They pass to the right, to the left, they get stuck in front of us and risk being crushed,” says Paolo Facioni, a 59-year-old bus driver.
Residents also complain of being thrown haphazardly down narrow sidewalks, blocking access to strollers and wheelchair users.
Like a ‘video game’ – Rented electric scooters have become staples in major cities around the world, from London to Paris and New York, as part of a global movement to diversify transportation away from vehicles.
But Roman taxi driver Gianni Ranucci, 56, called them a “real disaster”.
Tourists coasting through busy streets seem to “think they’re in a video game!” he told AFP.
Figures on the number of scooter-related fatalities and the wounds show that this is not the case.
Seventeen people have been killed in Italy in the past two years in incidents involving electric scooters, according to consumer protection association Codacons.
His boss Carlo Rienzi described Rome last month as “a Wild West, with scooters going where they shouldn’t, often with two people on board, going over the speed limit”.
The Rome police register an average of 15 accidents per month.
In light of the dangers, the town hall is preparing to tighten the rules, limiting the use of scooters to adults who must provide official identification.
The number of operators will be limited to three and there will be restrictions on parking – an early decision by a US company, Bird, which recently announced that its scooters in the city center could only be left in designated areas .
According to a new draft regulation seen by AFP, intended to come into force in January 2023, the speed limit will also be reduced from 25 kilometers per hour (15 miles) to 20 kilometers per hour on roads and six kilometers away in car-free pedestrian areas.
However, not everyone is happy with the proposed changes.
Twenty kilometers an hour “is too slow, we’re going to get run over” by other vehicles, said Mariano Giorgi, 60, who uses a scooter every day to get to work – and is one of rare people to be spotted. wear a safety helmet while driving.
“I live in the center and they are very useful, otherwise I would have to take the car which would pollute a lot more,” he said, as smog-spitting traffic crawled around Piazza Venezia near the Colosseum.
“If it’s not convenient, I won’t use it anymore.”
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