Dubai: The e-scooter is a ride difficult to miss in the UAE - you may have seen a well-suited officegoer zipping by while you walk to work, or a group of teenagers having the time of their lives cruising around corners. But is the trendy ride really for you? And is it even legal to ride one?
A Gulf News reader wrote in, confused about the regulations surrounding the use of these vehicles in the UAE. He said: “e-scooters are seen frequently on sidewalks, darting across pedestrian crosswalks. Usually, in other parts of the world, they have to abide by the same rules as motor vehicles moving in the same direction as traffic, yielding to pedestrians, making a full stop at stop signs and red lights, with bells to alert pedestrians. Would you please publish a guide on the rules of the road for these vehicles?”
So, if you, like our reader, were wondering how e-scooters can be used in the UAE, here is all you need to know.
What are e-scooters?
E-scooters are a type of personal light electric vehicles (PLEV), with an average speed of 20km/h. They have steadily been gaining popularity, and can be purchased in the UAE at a cost upwards of Dh1,000. E-scooters typically have two or three wheels and no seats, so users ride them while standing. You can charge an e-scooter by plugging the battery into a power source at your home or office.
Can I ride them legally in the UAE?
Gulf News spoke with Bushra Abu Tayeh, Senior Associate in the Transport, Insurance Department at UAE-based law firm Al Tamimi and Company, who spoke about the regulations in place so far across the UAE, which individuals should be aware of, whether you wish to buy an e-scooter or rent one.
“In Dubai, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is responsible for regulating the use of e-scooters. Administrative Order No. 208 – 2020 was issued on March 23, 2020 and is available on the RTA’s website, and it concerns the technical specifications required in order to use e-scooters in Dubai,” Bushra said.
Article 4 of the order, Bushra said, details the required technical specifications of the e-scooter, which are as follows:
1. They must contain headlights and tail lights;
2. They must contain a device for making a warning noise (i.e. similar to car horns and bicycle bells);
3. They must contain functional wheels;
4. They must contain brakes on the front and rear wheels;
5. They must be built to withstand the extreme weather conditions of the UAE;
6. They must meet the requirements, technical specifications, and standards set by competent authorities;
7. They must be GPS-tagged so that they work within designated geographical areas (i.e. geo-fencing);
8. The speed of e-scooters must be limited to a maximum of 20 km/h; and
9. They must comply with any other specifications/standards set by the Authority (i.e. RTA).
Also, Article 5 of the Order provides that e-scooter riders must:
1. Be of, at least, 14 years of age;
2. Wear a protective helmet;
3. Park their e-scooters in designated parking areas (if any);
4. Not use or park their e-scooters in a way that causes an obstruction to the flow of traffic or pedestrians;
5. Maintain a safe trailing distance between themselves and bikes/pedestrians;
6. Not carry any item that may cause their e-scooters to lose balance;
7. Not carry any additional riders (e-scooters are for individual/solo use);
8. Comply with rules, regulations, and road signs placed in the designated lanes;
9. Report major and minor accidents to the competent authority regardless of whether such accidents caused damage or not;
10. Not use headphones or earphones when riding their e-scooters;
11. Observe and adhere to the general safety requirements whilst riding their e-scooters;
12. Not ride their e-scooters in a manner which may be dangerous or life-threating to others (such as the public);
13. Not ride their e-scooters except in the designated and shared lanes; and
14. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
“As part of the Dubai Plan 2021, which aims to make Dubai the best place to live, work and visit, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, has introduced an initiative aimed at promoting cycling as an environmentally-friendly mode of transport. Consequently, we have seen an increase in the construction of cycle lanes around the city, which can be used by cyclists, and PLEV owners such as e-scooter riders,” Bushra added.
Currently, there is no way in which an e-scooter can be registered or licensed, and hence they are considered ‘unregistered vehicles’ when used on the road. Also, legal ownership documents of such vehicles do not exist. Consequently, at the discretion of the police, fines may be personally imposed upon riders.
Renting an e-scooter in Dubai
In March 2019, RTA had banned e-scooter rental companies from operating in the emirate. However, use of privately owned e-scooters is permitted, as reported by Gulf News.
Bushra also spoke about a group of members and representatives of a local e-scooter club - E-Scooter Club UAE (ESCU), which attended a “Cycling is a lifestyle 2020” meeting organised by Dubai Police.
“They used the opportunity to obtain some clarity on the use of e-scooters. Specifically, the main points of discussion were concerning safety, rules and regulations, and possible violations in respect of the use of e-scooters within Dubai,” she said.
The club provided the following guidelines, based on their interaction with the authorities:
1. Proper personal protective equipment must be worn at all times – specifically, helmets and high-visibility vests. Knee and elbow pads are considered optional.
2. The authorities have not yet mandated any specific type of helmet or high-visibility vests.
B. Rules & Regulations:
1. E-scooters do not fall within the scope of the rules and regulations that regulate the use of bicycles and electric bicycle.
2. The use of e-scooters is allowed in the emirate; however, at the discretion of the police, e-scooter riders can still be stopped and have their e-scooters confiscated if they are using their e-scooters improperly or dangerously.
3. Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, is still in the process of regulating the use of these vehicles, and therefore, there exists a grey area in the interpretation and application of laws.
1. E-scooters are considered as motorised vehicles, and therefore, the same fines levied on personal light vehicles (such as motorcycles) apply.
2. Fines can start from Dh400, and the value of the fine is proportional to the type of violation committed by the rider. In some cases, e-scooters may be confiscated.
“Currently, there is no way in which an e-scooter can be registered or licensed, and hence they are considered ‘unregistered vehicles’ when used on the road. Also, legal ownership documents of such vehicles do not exist. Consequently, at the discretion of the police, fines may be personally imposed upon riders,” Bushra added.
Can I take my e-scooter on to the Metro?
“Similar to bringing bicycles on board Dubai public transport, bringing an e-scooter may have its limitations,” Bushra said. She provided the following situations, where an e-scooter rider may need to be cognisant of the regulations by the Roads and Transport Authority:
1. The Dubai Metro only allows foldable cycles which must be carried and not ridden on-board public transport; they should be stowed correctly in the designated luggage racks on the train. Consequently, one may infer that the aforementioned rules apply, in a similar fashion, to e-scooters;
2. One may not ride an e-scooter on any of the public transport premises, including walkways, bridges and moving walkways. The general advice is that one should only bring an e-scooter which can be folded and carried; and
3. Large and heavy e-scooters may not be allowed on-board public transport.
In Abu Dhabi, the Integrated Transport Centre (ITC) is responsible for regulating the use of e-scooters in the emirate. According to the ITC, e-scooters must not be ridden at speeds exceeding 15-20 km/h, and they must be ridden in designated areas and designated paths.
Feras Gadamsi, Head of Policy and government relations at KIWIRide, a UAE-based e-scooter rental company which operates in Abu Dhabi, spoke about the specified zones, where the authorities have permitted e-scooter usage. According to KIWIRide, ‘Free floating areas’ are areas in Abu Dhabi where the use of e-scooters is permitted, which do not have designated parking areas. Use of e-scooters is permitted in Abu Dhabi in Downtown Abu Dhabi, Reem Island, and the Corniche. The only zone at the moment with designated parking areas is Abu Dhabi Corniche.
The special rules on the Abu Dhabi Corniche require riders to park in designated zones on the Corniche, primarily for health and safety reasons. Designating areas for parking help reduce clutter and make high pedestrian density areas like the Corniche safer for everyone. It also helps reduce clutter, and makes it easier for to disinfect scooters.
“We have always put health and safety at the top of our list of priorities. The precautions we have been asked to take by officials in Abu Dhabi - deploying single use gloves, regular COVID-19 testing for our staff, and regular disinfecting of our scooters and warehouse among other things - are a continuation of those efforts,” Gadamsi said.
“We certainly think safe and appropriate parking is important everywhere, not just on the Corniche. The duty to park your scooter responsibly and safely is a shared duty between KIWIRide and our users. While we expect our riders to park scooters in a safe and responsible manner, we also use technology to encourage and make it easier for users to do so. For example, on the Corniche, we make clear in the app where the safe parking zones are to ensure it is easy and clear for our riders where to park,” he added.
While we expect our riders to park scooters in a safe and responsible manner, we also use technology to encourage and make it easier for users to do so. For example, on the Corniche, we make clear in the app where the safe parking zones are to ensure it is easy and clear for our riders where to park.
How can I rent an e-scooter?
Renting an e-scooter can be quite a simple process. KIWIRide provides the following guidelines for the use of their rental e-scooters:
1. Find an e-scooter near you on the app and scan the QR code to unlock.
2. For your safety, please wear a helmet when you ride.
3. Raise the kickstand before you start the ride.
4. Start your ride by repelling yourself with the foot, then push the throttle to accelerate.
5. Place both feet on the footboard while riding.
6. No stunt riding.
7. Do not block pedestrian walkways.
8. Be mindful of road obstructions such as potholes and rocks.
9. Do not drive over the curb.
10. Always follow local traffic laws.
11. Press handbrake to stop.
12. Don’t forget to lock up. End your trip by pressing the button in the app.
Can I ride an e-scooter in Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah?
There are some regulatory aspects, which riders should keep in mind when planning to purchase and use an e-scooter.
“In addition to local police, the RAK Transport Authority, Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority (SRTA), and Ajman Transport Authority should be the competent authorities, which are responsible for regulating the use of e-scooters in each of the respective Emirates. However, it appears that these authorities are yet to issue any laws or regulations in respect to e-scooters. Having said that, it is safe to assume that one must ride an e-scooter safely and cautiously to avoid fines and infractions. Presently, there is no federal law which governs e-scooters specifically. However, UAE Federal Law No. 21 of 1995 (as amended by Federal Law No. 12 of 2007) classifies e-scooters as motorcycles, and the Executive Bylaws of the same law mandate that motorcyclists wear helmets,” Bushra said.
With e-scooters gaining popularity, there are various social groups of enthusiasts that come together to provide the necessary information and raise awareness about e-scooter use in the UAE. If you plan to buy an e-scooter, which are available in the UAE through retail outlets or online stores, it is advisable to connect with such social groups to stay updated on the regulations surrounding e-scooters.