Electric scooter sharing takes off in Italy

Italy classifies electric scooter in same category as bicycle, with specific rules.

Italian cities have welcomed fleets of new electric scooters in recent days, with thousands of app-based rental scooters now available to urban commuters in Rome, Milan, Turin and Verona.

The capital has seen the arrival of thousands of rental e-scooters over the last week, promoted by the city's mayor Virginia Raggi as an "environmentally friendly way to help Rome start again" after Italy's coronavirus lockdown.

The arrival of the electric scooters comes at a fortuitous time as Italian commuters seek to avoid public transport due to covid-19 contagion fears and the obligatory social distancing measures.

As Italy begins its recovery from the coronavirus emergency, the government is offering residents of Italian cities subsidies of up to €500 to purchase a bicycle or e-scooter, to reduce reliance on private cars.

In Rome there are four companies offering electric scooter sharing: three of them American: Bird, Lime and Helbiz; and one European: the Amsterdam-based Dott.

After much deliberation and trials regarding their regulation, the Italian transport ministry decided to classify the electric scooters in the same category as bicycles, with certain specific traffic rules.

This means that those who own electric scooters are not required to register or insure their vehicles. There are however rules that apply to both privately-owned and rental electric scooters in Italy.

  • Users must be aged at least 14, and those aged between 14 and 18 must wear a helmet.
  • It is forbidden to equip the scooter with a seat or to carry a passenger.
  • There is a maximum speed of 25 km/h on roads and 6 km/h in pedestrian areas.
  • It is forbidden to use the scooters on motorways or roads with a higher speed limit of 50 km/h.

On 4 June, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported a "boom" for electric scooters in the capital, with around 20,000 km clocked up by users of the four rental companies in less than a week.

Rome recently announced plans to build 150 km of bicycle lanes (see city mobility website) while Milan unveiled an ambitious proposal to turn 35 km of streets over to cyclists and pedestrians.

The arrival of the electric scooters in the capital has received a mixed response.

Those in favour of the silent, electric-powered vehicles highlight their sustainable credentials and point to a cleaner, greener future for urban transport.

However those against complain about the danger for pedestrians, particularly children and the elderly, as well as the careless manner in which some users park the scooters on sidewalks around the city.

Photo Il Messaggero