Traffic violations climbing among users of electric kick scooters

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Traffic violations related to electric kick scooters are on the rise as the vehicles gain popularity in large cities.

In the three months from December to February, 115 traffic tickets were issued in Tokyo to people on electric kick scooters, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. About 80% were given to users of scooter-sharing services, and the police plan to promote traffic regulation awareness in cooperation with the scooter-sharing industry.

Users stand while traveling on electric kick scooters, which have two wheels. Most models are classified as motorcycles by law and require a license to drive. The MPD used to offer guidance and issue warnings, but violations have kept increasing as the scooters’ popularity has grown. From December, therefore, the MPD began issuing tickets for violations.

According to an MPD senior official, 69 of the 115 ticketed cases, or 60%, were for traffic zone violations, such as driving on sidewalks. Seventeen tickets, or 15%, were for running a red light, and eight, or 7%, were for ignoring stop signs. Over half, or 59 cases, were violations by young people in their 20s.

There have been cases of drunk driving and serious accidents, and the MPD in March referred a man in his 20s to prosecutors on suspicion of violating the Road Traffic Law by running away after hitting and injuring a pedestrian in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

The spread of sharing services is one reason behind the scooters’ growing popularity. According to Tokyo-based Luup, a major player in the industry, the number of their stations in Tokyo grew from about 300 in April 2021 to about 760 this March.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An electric kick scooter port in Minato Ward, Tokyo, operated by major sharing service provider Luup

The industry plans to encourage users to follow traffic regulations by showing awareness-raising videos on electronic billboards at major stations and downtown areas in Tokyo, and by offering classes on safety.

A draft amendment to the Road Traffic Law has been submitted to the current Diet session to allow people ages 16 or older to use electric scooters at a maximum speed of 20 kph without a license. Once the law is amended, these scooters will no longer be considered motorcycles, but rules such as staying on the left side of the road and prohibiting the scooters’ use on sidewalks will remain unchanged.

“In preparation for the further spread of electric kick scooters, the central and local governments should promote the development of bicycle lanes where scooters can be used safely,” said Kansai University’s Professor Hiroshi Nishimura, an expert on traffic issues.