Micromobility and the concept of the 15-minute city is being noticed and implemented worldwide, but key aspects of these ideas have occasionally run into regulatory difficulty. For example, in some jurisdictions e-scooters and e-bikes have been outright banned, in others they have been subject to restrictions and yet in other locations they exist in an uneasy regulatory vacuum. But what is the current legislative position of countries? The aim of this post is to explore the varied international legal positions surrounding micromobility and how this is currently impacting the sector.
Please note: an in-depth examination into every country’s position on the matter would likely further lengthen this post to a dissertation in length… and so we haven’t been able to include every country. This is not to say that a country not mentioned here is not part of the micromobility revolution; micromobility usage is steadily increasing internationally… plus MOBIX is going to be accessible and used all over the world!
The United Kingdom is an obvious country with which to begin this examination. This may seem fairly surprising, considering London is well known for it’s rentable ‘Boris bikes’, but the implementation of micromobility services in the UK hasn’t really begun until fairly recently. It was very rare to see someone riding an e-scooter in the UK until this year… and in many places it still is.
This is because, due to some unfortunately worded legislation in the past, e-scooters and e-bikes have been classified as being electric vehicles. Additionally, these key means of micromobility are currently banned in cycle lanes and on pedestrian paths due to a provision within the highways act. Privately owned electric scooters are, in essence, currently banned- and are only available for purchase for use on private property. This has led to some consternation, particularly in Northern Ireland, where the Garda were allowing their use in public until legal reinterpretation brought them into line with the same micromobility regulations followed by the other police forces of the UK.
However, more recently, the Department for Transport has moved to facilitate legislative change, as part of the ‘Future of Transport’ program, to support micromobility options and have canvassed for citizen opinions on this topic. Numerous local trials are analysing the impacts, benefits and challenges presented by e-scooters and other such means of transport- one example that has seen success is in Cambridge, so much so that e-bikes have now joined e-scooters on the streets.
Currently the UK has adopted a ‘trial and error’ approach to micromobility implementation, which will hopefully demonstrate the benefits of the burgeoning micromobility revolution and lead to citizens of the UK seeing more micromobility options in their local areas.
The European Union
Across the EU, as a collection of states with their own legislative powers, there has been a call for a coherent policy framework to be built under the auspice of the European Union. An industry body, Micro-Mobility for Europe (MMfE), is a coalition of 8 micromobility service providers that is spearheading this drive.
As a result, the European Commission is reviewing light electric vehicles (LEV) regulation, which may result in the re-classification of types of transportation that come under this scope and potentially pave the way for a single European policy for micromobility means. It is noted in a recent Commission report that ‘Mobility in Europe should be based on an efficient and interconnected multimodal transport system’ and that the commission aims to assist cities in ‘updating their policy toolbox’ in response to innovative new micromobility services.
As the regulatory field stands however, there is an excellent resource here that tracks the current legislation impacting e-scooters, e-bikes and e-skateboards in every country in Europe.
With an upcoming review into Intelligent Transport Systems, there will doubtless be some exciting (and positive) changes to European micromobility in the near future.
The United States
Conversely, in the U.S. there are currently no federal laws or regulations affecting e-scooters and other means of micromobility. Initially this may seem like a good thing, as it could be assumed that their use and the overall growth of the sector is unimpeded in comparison to Europe, however, this is not the case. Because of this lack of focus on the sector, various states have taken matters in their own hands and have begun legislating to regulate micromobility. This has resulted in a patchwork set of regulations that may make it difficult for companies and individuals to ensure they are obeying the law while operating in areas that cross state lines or when offering micromobility services in a new market.
Currently, 38 states allow the use of e-scooters in public and 10 have ruled against their use. Naturally there are also many nuances within the respective legislation of each state as well. This resource is a fantastic source to gain an overview of the e-scooter and wider micromobility legal picture over in the United States. Hawaii has notably just implemented e-scooters into traffic law this week, allowing Go X to begin rolling out micromobility services across Waikiki – with 150 e-scooters now already on the road. But, in a nutshell, there is a great deal of inconsistency between state laws on micromobility, particularly around; speed limitation (10-35mph), the legal definition of a motorised electric vehicle, acceptable use (pavements or roads), age restrictions and whether insurance/helmets are required for use.
So, while the U.S. is friendlier to the micromobility revolution than other countries, it may be that patchwork legislation on e-scooter use is impacting the sector almost as badly as over-legislating or the sector falling under archaic legislation. Hopefully, at some point in future, a federal response to the micromobility revolution will provide some needed certainty for the sector.
India, particularly Delhi, is not an obvious market for e-scooters and other forms of micromobility, but it is one that bears consideration. With a population well over one billion, if even a fraction of the population adopts micromobility transport, then the country will still be one of the largest micromobility markets on the planet. Also, considering the concept of the 15-minute city, journey distances of 0–10km make up approximately 65% of the journeys undertaken in India. Micromobility service providers have already begun offering services in Indian cities, and a homegrown start-up, Yulu, has recently partnered with Uber.
However, the current legislative issue in India is not so much directly related to the regulation of e-scooter use (which is currently relatively unregulated) but is more based around road quality. 29.8% of all road fatalities in India occur due to two-wheeled vehicles hitting pot-holes and, evidently, this is not promising for e-scooters and e-bikes. This legislative issue, rather than direct legislation, is arguably one of the key obstacles to micromobility adoption in India. The Indian government has committed to improving road quality but, despite innovative new means of road-repair, progress so far has been slow.
In Japan, e-scooters are classified legally as mopeds and so require their users to have a driving license, helmet and vehicle insurance before their use is permitted. It is relatively clear, therefore, that Japan may have some way to legislate until micromobility as a service can truly be implemented in the country.
Singapore are somewhat further ahead than other countries as they have a ‘catch-all’ legal definition- ‘Personal mobility devices’ are limited to a maximum speed of 25km, and are subject to regulation around their maximum size and weight. Each e-scooter or e-bike has to be registered and they are only permitted to be ridden down bike lines. However, with a government commitment to expand bike lanes in the country to 1300km total by 2023 (likely in part due to the growing popularity of micromobility), Singapore definitely seems to have committed to building the framework required for micromobility services.
Israeli legislators have limited the number of e-scooters available on city streets and micromobility service providers are somewhat strictly licensed. There is an age limit on users (18 years old) and they must hold a driving license. E-scooters are only allowed to be used in cycle lanes and cannot use the pavement. Additionally, they must be parked in allocated spaces.
Israel has taken a more nuanced view of micromobility transport than other countries, although the age limit and requiring a license will obviously prevent a not-insignificant amount of the population from fully being able to take part in the micromobility revolution.
Hopefully this article has been of use in showcasing the current regulatory picture affecting the micromobility sector. It is clear that similar issues with micromobility implementation have been encountered by many countries, and we will aim to further explore these issues in a future blog post. Overall, the current legislative picture for micromobilty seems positive and will likely only improve access to micromobilty services in the future.
One legal aspect that has not been touched on upon in this post has been GDPR compliancy. MOBIX’s innovative SSI/AEA architecture means that micromobility journeys booked via MOBIX will be fully GDPR compliant, protecting user data. To find out more about how MOBIX protects user data, see here.