The Council of Ministers in Poland has adopted a draft amendment to the Road Traffic Act and certain other regulations in order to better regulate the status of e-scooters and other electrically powered personal transport devices (e.g. electric skateboard, hoverboards, etc.).
According to the Minister of Infrastructure, Andrzej Adamczyk: “Until now, the legal status of electric scooters and personal transport devices has remained unregulated. This created a real safety risk on roads and sidewalks. That is why we have prepared solutions that will increase safety, in particular of the least protected road users.”
The new regulations define the status of electric scooters and personal transport devices, including their place on the road. In addition, technical standards will be introduced for devices placed on the market after December 31, 2021.
Clear priority is given to pedestrians over e-scooters on sidewalks and other infrastructure intended for pedestrian traffic. Drivers of e-scooters and other personal transport devices must give way to pedestrians and should not obstruct their movement in any way.
E-scooters are obliged to use bicycle lanes or cycle paths, which have a speed limit of 20 km/h. In case there are no bicycle lanes, e-scooters are allowed to use the road on roads with a 30 km/h speed limit for all traffic. When the road speed limit is set above 30 km/h and there are no cycle lanes, users may ride e-scooters on the pavement or other pedestrian road, provided they take special care not to obstruct pedestrians and lower their pace to that of pedestrians. Users of other electronic personal transport devices should also use bicycle lanes, but are not allowed on the road. Hence, if no bicycle lanes are available, the pavement should be used under the condition pedestrians are not hindered.
Rules are also introduced for the parking of e-scooters and personal transport devices in public space. These should be parked in designated places (i.e. by the road administrator). In the absence of such places in the nearby area, the devices could be parked on the pavement, provided they are parked on the edge of the pavement as far away from the side of the road as possible. In addition, the pavement should be at least 1.5 m and parked e-scooters should not hinder pedestrians. Failing to comply with these provisions could result in the removal of the e-scooter at the owner's expense. Orders to remove ill-parked e-scooters and other devices, which obstruct pedestrian traffic, may be issued by a policeman or a municipal (city) guard.
Other rules introduced in the draft act include, among others, the introduction of a minimum age (10 years) for the use of e-scooters on public roads. People under the age of 18 will be required to have the same qualifications as for cycling, i.e. a bicycle card or driving license of categories AM, A1, B1 or T. Furthermore, it will be prohibited to drive an e-scooter or a personal transport device when under the influence of alcohol or other psychoactive substance. Also transporting other people, animals and objects with an electric scooter and personal transport device will be prohibited.
The new regulations will help municipalities trying to balance the benefits offered by e-scooters on the one hand and the increasing nuisance caused by an increasing number of ill-parked devices cluttering public space on the other. Until now, municipalities were left to set their own rules on the use of e-scooters on public roads in the absence of national legislation.
One municipality which recently introduced new rules on the use of e-scooters in their municipality is Lublin. The new rules were introduced in Lublin in September last year in cooperation with the two operators of shared e-scooter systems active in the city.
“E-scooters are an ideal means of transport, and especially over short distances, they are able to compete with an individual car trip. Therefore, their inclusion in the city's transport system could be beneficial and lead to a reduction in vehicle traffic. However, there is a real need for regulations and a clear definition of their place on the road, as conflicts with pedestrians and cyclists intensify, a result of the number of devices which are left disorderly on sidewalks and bicycles paths”, said Artur Szymczyk, Deputy Mayor of Lublin for Investments and Development, when Lublin introduced its rules for e-scooters in the city.
The case of Lublin offers an interesting example of how cooperation with operators of e-scooter systems could help achieve better compliance with the new regulations. Lublin has designated specific areas in the city where speed limits will apply for e-scooters, as well as areas where parking of e-scooters is prohibited. Using a system of geofencing and an app communicating with the e-scooters, the app will not allow users to drive above the set speed (12 km/h) within the indicated area. The application will also help prevent users from leaving the scooters from no-parking zones. When left in these zones, it is impossible for users to click on the option suggesting the return of the device, which means the user will be continued to be charged until the device is returned to an area where parking is allowed.
Through their app, users can see where parking is allowed and where not. In addition to a number of areas where permanent parking restrictions are in place, Lublin can also use the system to set temporary restrictions for traffic and parking in certain areas during cultural events.