Skopje, 29 December 2019 (MIA) – The popularity of electric scooters, the result of revolutionary transport changes around the globe, has made an impact in North Macedonia, too. More and more people around Skopje are replacing their cars with this new mode of transport.
It’s due to several reasons: they’re more economic, practical, easy to navigate traffic with, and of course, they have a huge impact on the reduction of environmental pollution, something that has become a serious problem in this country.
The City of Skopje offered subsidies for these vehicles, providing additional motivation for citizens to buy them. However, whilst the city authorities provided subsidies, the law disregarded them. As a new kind of transport vehicle, they weren’t defined anywhere, which put drivers’ safety at risk.
Things have changed recently.
A bill on amending the existing Law for Traffic Road Safety, which is being considered in Parliament, would also focus on the utilization of these scooters in traffic.
Minister of the Interior Oliver Spasovski has announced that this would happen on a bicycle level.
“There was no regulation for the way they would move and the rules they’d need to follow. We have now defined conditions for their participation in traffic, such as where they’re allowed to move, at what speed, the age of the rider, using protective gear and lights etc. Practically, it’s at a bicycle level,” Spasovski says.
Toni Angelovski, Interior Ministry spokesman, has told MIA that the experiences of several European countries have been used to regulate the participation of these electric vehicles in traffic, and that they asked for the opinions of experts.
“Electric scooters are becoming more and more popular, especially as of this year. Their regulation came into question. This is a new mode of transport worldwide, and each country is finding its own way to regulate it. We consulted with several experts, and European countries shared their experiences with us in order for us to find the best solution for our country,” Angelovski says.
According to him, changes to the law, expected to be implemented soon, will regulate the participation of electric scooters in traffic in order to increase the safety of electric scooter riders, as well as the safety of other participants in traffic.
Helmet, reflective vest, max speed 25 km/h
The proposed amendments to the Law for Traffic Road Safety stipulate wearing a protective helmet, as well as a reflective vest during low light.
“One of the new measures the law stipulates is for all riders to wear a reflective vest. The reason behind this is that these vehicles are somewhat silent, and they should be as visible as possible for other traffic participants.
Each individual can ride these scooters on bike trails with a max speed of 25 km/h,” Angelovski says, adding that the scooters can use pedestrian trails where there is no bike trail, with a max speed of 6 km/h.
Anyone under the age of 14 would be barred from riding an electric scooter in order to secure the safety of drivers and other participants in traffic, because they could jeopardize pedestrian and cyclist safety.
The Law for Traffic Road Safety stipulates that whether two or more electric scooter riders move together in a group, they must form a line. An electric scooter rider must operate the vehicle in a way which does not reduce the stability of the vehicle or obstruct other participants in traffic. They especially mustn’t take their hands off the steer, hold onto other vehicles, or transport/pull/push items which would hinder the operation of the vehicle or endanger the other participants in traffic.
Furthermore, an electric scooter rider mustn’t transport other individuals while operating this vehicle. An electric scooter must have a white-colored light on the front, and a red-colored light on the back.
Dejan Andonović of the Republic Council on Road Traffic Safety (RCRTS) has told MIA that the EU doesn’t have a unified electric scooter law, but that most European countries implement their own legal measures. Andonović says that North Macedonia follows France, the UK and Serbia in legally regulating electric scooters.
“The RCRTS conducted a study which determines who, where, and how electric scooters are being operated, as well as the needs, obligations and privileges which come with using this modern mode of transport.
Slowly, but surely, practical legal solutions for the operation of electric scooters are created globally, which would focus on traffic safety above all else,” Andonović points out.
Higher fines if the law is broken
Any individual who would break the Law for Traffic Road Safety would have to pay a fine ranging from EUR 50 to EUR 120, depending on the severity of the infraction.
Toni Angelovski points out that different kinds of infractions have been predicted, such as speeding, breaking the age limit etc, whilst adding that the fines are not only a means of punishing the culprit, but they are also a preventive measure to stop these infractions in the future, and to ensure traffic safety.
His data shows that teenagers and those aged 18-30 use electric scooters most.
In regards to traffic accidents, Angelovski states that there haven’t been many in the capital Skopje, apart from one major accident in which an electric scooter rider was heavily injured.
“Luckily, there haven’t been many traffic accidents where electric scooter riders were involved. However, to prevent any from happening in the future, we must respect the rules being discussed right now,” Angelovski said.
Andonović follows up with saying that there haven’t been many serious electric scooter accidents. Around seven light incidents have been documented.
“Statistics show that there haven’t been any serious accidents involving electric scooters. Six or seven incidents have been documented, but none of them are traffic incidents or collisions. They’re rider-based, due to the instability of the electric scooters. It’s never too late, though,” Andonović adds.
Andonović also says that this law regulation, proposed by the Ministry of the Interior and the RCRTS, has come at the right time, because now we know exactly where to ride electric scooters, at what speed, what it needs to possess, as well as the age limit of the riders.
An elevated traffic culture leads to increased safety
Andonović says that traffic culture cannot be implemented or regulated by law. Traffic culture, as he says, is the culture of a people.
“The Republic Council on Road Traffic Safety should be trying to elevate traffic culture through educational campaigns and billboards. We should evaluate our own traffic culture and try to raise awareness,” he says, adding that each electric scooter rider should abide by the rules in order to ensure their safety, as well as to reduce the number of traffic infractions and injuries.
“If the law says you can’t drive above 6 km/h, you have to respect it. That’s the traffic culture I’m talking about. If we would all raise our awareness and develop some kind of traffic culture, less and less people would get hurt, and less and less traffic infractions would be made.”
“We, the Council, through campaigns are teaching everyone no matter their age, what to do in traffic. This ensures a much safer traffic than what we currently have. No one is immune to the consequences of traffic. As participants, somebody’s negligence could cost us our lives,” Andonović concludes.
Photo: Frosina Nasković
Translator: Dragana Knežević