[Trend] An Outlaw on the Roads, Electric Scooter

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An electric scooter, more commonly known as an electric kickboard in Korea, is classified as a type of personal mobility (PM) vehicle. The term ‘personal mobility’ stands for a transportation device used by individuals for their private and personal benefits. However, such convenience always comes with a price to pay. By introducing a newly revised traffic law on e-scooters, the Mirror will analyze from the practical sides of the vehicle to unfortunate mishaps involving PM devices, pondering on the safe ways to enjoy many advantages electric kickboards offer.

E-scooters’ soaring popularity is driving many nations around the globe to adopt even more motorized scooters for public use and increase the efficiency of short-distance trips for citizens. In 2018, a public sharing service enterprise ‘Olulo’ initially introduced the first public e-scooter service ‘KICKGOING’ in South Korea. The market of electric scooters has only been expanding ever since. Korean e-scooter businesses such as ‘Gcooter’ and ‘Xingxing’ as well as foreign e-scooter services ‘Lime,’ ‘Wind’ and more made appearances here and there in metropolitan areas across the country.

However, the public’s concern for hazards along with repeated cases of incidents with electronic scooters has been on the rise during recent months. According to an article from Busan Ilbo, a report from a big data platform ‘Mobile Index’ revealed a significant increase in the number of e-scooter mobile rental application service users. It presented that over 214,451 people employed the electric scooter sharing service, as of April 2020. Also, over 63 percent of the drivers in the statistic were young people, mostly in their 20s and 30s. Thus, it is no wonder why numerous people feel alarmed when the unruly vehicle whizzes by their feet.

In order to observe popular opinions on e-scooters even further, The Sungshin Mirror carried out a survey with Sungshin’s students who have or haven’t have a chance to drive an electric scooter. Firstly, 70 percent out of total of 50 respondents answered that they haven’t utilized the PM vehicle. The reason for their decision not to ride them ranged from ‘risk of accidents’ (26%) and ‘little knowledge about the vehicle instructions’ (24%) to ‘unavailability of PMs in the area’ (10%). On the other hand, 30 percent of the students who already tried electric kickboards answered that they utilized the service mainly for a short distance trip (24%) or as a hobby (12%). To the question which asked about their fear towards e-scooters as pedestrians, over 80 percent of them answered they don’t feel safe around electric kickboards. 10 percent of the respondents even actually got involved in traffic accidents during the ride, and 34 percent were students who almost collided with the kickboard while strolling down the street. Most surprisingly, over 90 percent of them answered that they deem e-scooters as a dangerous means of transportation. The survey clearly outlined the fact that there is a high level of resistance to electric kickboards which outweigh their benefits. 

As an effort to settle electric kickboards on streets as a secure daily transportation option, the National Assembly of Korea passed a revised bill that is being applied from December 10th 2020. Oddly enough, the revision was questioned and even criticized by the crowd, as some of the regulations were dangerously loose.

The followings are the modified rules that are presently in effect. First, the new law obliges electric scooters to be driven solely on bike lanes. Before the modification, electric mobility was only permitted on driveways, being classified as ‘Motorized bicycle.’ Secondly, the maximum velocity for an e-scooter has been limited to 25km/h. There will also be a forfeit if two people are caught riding on one vehicle. Lastly, the age limit for electric scooters is lowered, to all people older than only 13.

The issue is that these restraints are simply not enough to put numerous kickboards on the road in order. What aggravated the public’s judgement was the policy’s lack of consideration for children’s safety. Although public e-scooter service still cannot be utilized by 13 to 15-year-old, they are now free to ride electric kickboards if they privately purchase or own them. Adolescents from the age of 16 to 17 are allowed to utilize the sharing service with a specific license called ‘Class Two Motorized Bicycle License.’ However, it is not clearly announced by the traffic law for anyone older than 18 to own a driver’s license to drive motorized scooters.

In countries where many types of motorized vehicles safely found its way into people’s everyday life, e-scooters are strictly regulated by insurances and PM curfew hours. According to an article from OhmyNews, Singapore strengthened their traffic law by strictly driving out electric kickboards from sidewalks and roads to cycling paths only. They will be fined with over 2,000 SGD (1.7 million Korean won) monetary penalty or receive a sentence of up to three months. Another article from Sisa Journal also indicated that the Ministry of Transportation in Germany created three different types of insurance according to their speed. For instance, vehicles that exceed speeds of at least 21km up to 50km are obliged to have proper insurance. A driver’s age must be over 15 and the country mandatorily requires a license for anyone who wishes to drive them.

Compelled by the frosty reaction from the public, the current traffic regulations are being modified again in April 2021. Future modifications in the law are hoped to take more into account safety than usability. Means of transportation can be successfully commercialized only when it doesn’t violate both human rights and traffic legislation. We, as drivers of the transportation, must carefully conform to the safety rules and wear protective gears at all times. Discreet traffic laws must be arranged reflecting a stern reality of personal mobility to keep streets from turning into a disarray.

By Cho Yoonji Reporter (whdbswl16@naver.com)

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