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According to Telegraph Germany has just issued a law that allows electrical scooters on the roads:

Germany has become the latest country to approve the use of electric scooters on its roads as their popularity spreads throughout Europe.

On Friday, the upper house of parliament voted to allow anyone over the age of 14 to use an e-scooter as long as they stick to a speed limit of 12.4mph (20km/h).

When visiting Germany, it felt really strange to have a great infrastructure for slower 2-wheels vehicles, but no e-scooters at all, as this seems a great alternative for a car and it is also accessible to those who for various reasons cannot ride a bike.

Question: Why did it take so long for Germany to allow electric scooters / e-rollers on the roads?

  • 7
    Allowed in bicycle lanes, not "roads". – Mazura May 20 at 22:41
  • 3
    Well, some 1st world places outright ban them because they can't deal with it. I'm in Hong Kong right now, easily accessible to scores of e-bikes and e-scooters from China, but they're completely illegal in Hong Kong because the road infrastructure simply cannot safely accommodate them. – Nelson May 21 at 1:49
  • 1
    well ... you know ... wait, did you seriously ask why something took a long time *in politics? It took Hessen till 2018 to abolish the death sentence. – DonQuiKong May 21 at 14:31
  • @DonQuiKong - that required a constitution change which is normally harder to get than changing some transportation regulation. – Alexei May 21 at 14:33
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    Incidentally, these vehicles are flourishing in urban centres in the UK too, where they remain illegal. They're not allowed on pavements, because they're powered vehicles (but not mobility scooters) and they're not allowed on roads because (and somewhat ridiculously) they rely on power to get home (in contrast with an e-bike which can still be pedalled if the battery fails). But it seems that the ecological imperative will win out if and when the UK becomes less preoccupied with certain other topics. – Strawberry May 22 at 11:13
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The debate over e-mobility comes in the context of an ongoing debate in Germany how public spaces for transportation are to be divided between the different modes of transportation.

In the last century, many German cities were designed to optimize the use of private cars. Many urban populations are rising (and average cars are getting larger ...), and both traffic congestion and parking spaces are a real problem. The increase in the internet economy adds many more delivery vans, which are often parking in a questionable manner.

At the same time, bicycles and public transport are demanding their "fair" share of the road (bus lanes, bicycle lanes, bicycle racks). Depending on how one defines "fair," that could lead to a reduction in space for cars. Many motorists are upset about that. In prospect theory, motorists are moving into the domain of loss, which often leads to aggression.

The initial proposal of the Department of Transportation would have put scooters up to 12 kph onto the pedestrian sidewalk and scooters up to 20 kph onto the bicycle lanes. The secretary of transportation, Scheuer, is seen as strongly in favor of the car industry and private transportation in cars. The current proposal keeps them off the sidewalks, but bicyclist's organizations complain about the increasing use of bicycle lanes without a matching increase in their size.

  • Many motorists are upset about that., is that actually true? Could you link to some evidence? I've seen motorists complaining about sharing the road with cyclists, which should imply they support segregated cycling infrastructure. I don't recall having seen motorists opposing segregated cycling infrastructure. – gerrit May 21 at 8:45
  • @gerrit Yes, many motorists would support segregated cycling infrastructure. As long as it does not reduce their infrastructure (number of lanes, parking space, traffic light times,...). These are two fundamentally opposing goals in virtually all German cities since the space between buildings (and parks) is the crucial limit. Same with the pedestrian/cyclist divide. You can't have the cake and eat it. – Philip Klöcking May 23 at 10:30
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German legislation isn't the fastest in general. There is no powerful president, the parties in the governing coalition have to agree to assure a majority in the Bundestag, and acquiring a majority in the states representation can be difficult too.

I don't feel able to represent the complex legal process. The project changed course more than once. There were numerous interest groups:

  • Pedestrians, especially older people, feared accidents. They didn't want them on their paths. Until a few days ago, e-scooters with less than 12 km/h would have been allowed there. Now they are not allowed.
  • Cyclists: There were also many voices among cyclists who considered that the existing infrastructure isn't sufficient, if it has to be shared with (slower) e-scooters.
  • Drivers: Car drivers don't like having to share the roads with cyclists, even less so with e-scooters with their weaker brakes and smaller wheels.
  • Insurance companies: They don't want to pay for more traffic accidents and would welcome an obligatory insurance (which they got).
  • Potential e-scooter users: They want to be able to use their scooters everywhere, no obligation to use the road where there is no cycle path, the right to take their vehicle with them on bus or train, no insurance or costly technical requirements.
  • Pro-scooter environmentalists: Scooters as an environmentally friendly alternative to the car, usage of e-scooters for the last mile from the train station to work.
  • Contra-scooter environmentalists: Scooters are short-lived toys with large batteries.
  • ...

The political parties were in principle in favor. However, the positions shifted under internal and external pressure. News that showed wide-spread usage and acceptance elsewhere increased pressure in favor of e-scooters to avoid Germany being depicted as hostile to technology and innovation. News of angry citizens and more prohibitive rules after accidents elsewhere favored the opponents. Ultimately, the "final version" changed again because of Austrian legislation and news about problems in Paris.

  • 2
    Do you have references about the problems in Paris? To better get the context and how this influenced. – tuxayo May 20 at 16:54
  • @tuxayo: If you want reports from German media about the Paris situation, try focus.de/finanzen/news/… or zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2019-05/… or spiegel.de/auto/aktuell/… – Guntram Blohm May 21 at 5:18
  • @tuxayo: The first two google results when googling for the problems in Paris: Daily Telegraph, TheLocal.fr. – Frank from Frankfurt May 21 at 7:20
  • similar in the Netherlands, where there's an ongoing discussion about where to put scooters and faster electrical bicycles. They're too fast for the bicycle lanes, too slow for the main roadway. Now their advocates are trying to get the speed limit for cars reduced "for safety" so they can be on the main roadway without being slower than cars. Can imagine the opposition to that proposal, but they're smart and claiming it's "for the environment, it will reduce CO2", which makes every restriction on peoples' lives ok apparently. – jwenting May 22 at 4:16
  • @FrankfromFrankfurt Thanks for the links. Google doesn't show the same things according to one history. So I could have found an article that talks about the issue but still has a positive point of view, or have a very very negative point of view. That's why it's more interesting to get articles that you found. – tuxayo May 22 at 14:30
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I'm repeating my deleted comment (thank you, heavy-handed mod/user) as an answer even though it is really more a comment.

Germany may be the latest (most recent) country to regulate or allow e-scooters, but it is by no means the last (after all others) European country doing so. The article you quote says

Some of Europe’s other leading economies still don’t have laws that permit the use of e-scooters.

In the UK, the lack of guidelines [...]

So your question is rather: Why is law-making in general such a slow business? And one of the answers is certainly that you better get laws and other official regulations right, so they are usually made in a multi-stage process with debate and reviews carefully designed not to overlook anything.

Oh, and since the Telegraph mentioned the UK specifically: I have a nagging suspicion that regulation of e-scooters is at most on fourth place on the current priority list of most politicians, right after the election campaign, the general Brexit mess, and exploring alternative career options despite a minimal skill set and a resume that demonstrates an utter inability of getting anything done. But I'm digressing.

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    It is by-design a slow process. This question has nothing to do with motor driven carriages or their ilk, +1 – Mazura May 20 at 22:43
  • Good answer. If this general question about the speed of law making had not yet been asked, maybe it should and then act as canonical duplicate target. – Trilarion May 21 at 7:50

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