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Japan’s Eased Rules on Electric Kick Scooters Raise Safety Concerns

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Riders learn how to safely use electric kick scooters during an event in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, on June 18.

Electric kick scooters that meet certain requirements will from July 1 be subject to eased regulations on par with bicycles.

As a driver’s license will no longer be needed, there are hopes that more people will use them, though there are also concerns that there will be an increase in accidents and traffic violations.

With that in mind, the police are making efforts to raise awareness among the public about the new traffic rules for electric kick scooters.

Earlier this month, about 30 participants received safety training about electric kick scooters at the Metropolitan Police Department’s traffic safety education center in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

An instructor told one rider that turning right should be done in the same manner as that of a bicycle.

“It’s unstable, so you need to know the art of riding one,” said a 54-year-old participant from Kawasaki.

Until July 1, anyone who rides an electric kick scooter is required to have a driver’s license and wear a helmet, but wearing helmets is not mandatory for users of scooter sharing services. This has led to people voicing their dissatisfaction, saying traffic rules on electric kick scooters are difficult to understand.

The revised law specifies electric kick scooters meeting certain requirements, such as size and having a maximum speed of 20 kph, will be eligible to be ridden by anyone 16 and over without a driver’s license. License plates, turn signals and other lights will be required. As for helmets, electric kick scooter riders will be obligated to make efforts to wear them, the same mandate that applies to bicycle riders. The vehicles will also be able to travel on bike paths.

There are safety issues that might arise through the wider use of the scooters.

According to the National Police Agency, the number of accidents resulting in personal injury or death involving electric kick scooters increased from four in 2020 to 29 in 2021 and 41 in 2022. Since September 2021 there have been more than 2,000 cases of people riding the scooters under the influence of alcohol and traveling on sidewalks.