Row of Lime e-scooters; illustrative photo.

Prague demands tougher rules and liability insurance for Lime scooters

The news follows a ruling by the Transport Ministry that the electric scooters must stay off of sidewalks

Shared electric scooters face another blow, as Prague City Hall plans to tighten the rules for their use. This following a ruling by the Transport Ministry that scooters must stay off of sidewalks.

City Hall plans to terminate the memorandum of cooperation with shared scooter operator Lime. Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě), responsible for transit issues, said the company has not complied with the conditions set out in the memorandum signed last fall. He added that the rules for the company need to be tightened.

Scheinherr will negotiate new conditions with Lime for operating shared scooters. The city wants to ensure safety on the sidewalks, and is responding to complaints from Prague residents and an appeal from the Prague 1 Town Hall.

Lime scooters
Lime scooters in Prague. via Raymond Johnston

“We have had a lot of talks with Lime, where we made it clear that the company had to take responsibility for what their scooter customers were doing. Despite this, we still have to think that people on the sidewalks must jump from in front of the scooters, and parked scooters again block their passage,” Scheinherr said.

“If these situations continue to happen, we have no choice other than to introduce new rules. The first condition I will require is compulsory liability insurance so that the injured person is immediately compensated. I will also insist that scooters are certified to be roadworthy, and I also want to make clear the scooter parking conditions,” he added.

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He has already informed Lime that he wants to terminate the memorandum concluded under the previous city administration. The company has not adhered to the conditions it contains, such as the negotiating of scooter storage areas withitn city districts or the removal of poorly parked scooters, and the rules were too lenient, according to Scheinherr.

During the first half of this year, City Hall and Lime agreed on introducing zones where scooters would slow down or be banned, among other rules, but this did not bring greater safety on sidewalks and failed to prevent the blocking of trams and buses, and other driving violations.

Lime scooters
Broken Lime scooter. via Raymond Johnston

“With Lime, I was looking for ways in which Praguers could use scooters, as this could be a great tool in the future to complement public transport for door-to-door driving. Unfortunately, such a model is yet to come. I see the biggest problem in Prague 1, where the streets are already overloaded and scooters are used mainly by tourists as an attraction. The sidewalks in Prague are supposed to remain safe, and people or parents with baby carriages should not have to jump out of the way,” Scheinherr said.

The Czech Transport Ministry recently released new rules, stating that scooters of any type cannot be driven on sidewalks. They also set limits for speed and power to determine which scooters qualify as cycles and which ones as motor vehicles. Users need a driver’s license for more powerful scooters that qualify as motor vehicles.

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib said he fully supports the Deputy Mayor. “We are not in favor of any repression, but the safety factor of Prague citizens and other visitors to the capital is absolutely crucial for us. At the time when the memorandum was concluded by the previous council, the problem was not as great as it is now,” he said.

The announcement that the city will be tightening rules for Lime scooters coincides with the Metropolitan Police releasing a video of drunken scooter user driving into a crowd of people on Wenceslas Square and knocking a woman to the ground. The victim sustained minor injuries.

“Officers rushed to help and provided the 38-year-old woman with the necessary initial treatment. Then they called the ambulance and the traffic police. The 24-year-old who caused the accident was apparently under the influence of alcohol, so they conducted an orientation test. The foreigner registered over 2 per mille. The case is now being handled by the Czech Police,” Municipal Police spokeswoman Irena Seifertová said.

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The law sees the scooter driver the same way as the cyclist, and the same rules apply. Scooter offenses are counted together with cycling violations. “Since the beginning of this year, police officers in Prague have detected 4,219 offenses related to cyclists. In 2018 they detected 758 offenses and in 2017 there were 2,083 offenses,” Seifertová said.

Lime scooter
Parked Lime scooter. via Raymond Johnston

Scooter-related injuries are also reported to be increasing. In July and August they were double compared to the same time in 2018.

The Prague 2 district has also been a vocal critic of shared scooters. A survey conducted by the Town Hall found that three-quarters of residents opposed the scooters.

Lime launched operation in Prague in September 2018. The company was established in the US state of California in January 2017. It is mainly active in the US but has been expanding to Europe and Australia. Its founders say they want to reduce people’s dependence on passenger cars for short-distance transport.

Lime is hoping to avoid the fate of Segways, which were banned from large areas of Prague at the end of 2016.

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