190311 e scooters
The RTA is “currently considering the technical and legislative requirements to allow the operation of electric scooters,” according to the notice. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has indefinitely banned electric scooters from sidewalks, putting the plans of as many as nine companies in doubt.

The city’s transport regulator says the move is intended to both study the technology, reduce the threat to pedestrians, and eventually introduce new laws governing the form of transport.

The decision follows similar rulings in France and Spain, which both moved to regulate the powered scooters in October of last year.

In a notice circulated by the RTA in February and obtained by Gulf News, the regulator said that electric scooters would be banned from sidewalks until “the completion of [a] study and the presence of legislative frameworks that protects the users of the road,” and legalises the use of scooters.

The RTA is “currently considering the technical and legislative requirements to allow the operation of electric scooters in addition to the conditions and commitment of scooter drivers,” according to the notice.

“Given that the use of electric scooters on roads or sidewalks is very dangerous due to the lack of dedicated paths,” the RTA added, it had been forced to ban the technology until it had completed its study and formulated new regulations.

When contacted by Gulf News, the RTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On March 8, the Dubai-based scooter business KIWIride said in a statement posted to Instagram that it had been instructed by Dubai Police to halt operations in a number of residential areas throughout the city. “Other areas will still be active/operational,” its statement added.

However, on Monday afternoon, KIWIride’s app showed that virtually all of its available scooters were located on the grounds of the General Department of Traffic, next to the Dubai Police Traffic Department, in Barsha.

Map Scooter Screenshot
Image Credit: EC

KIWIride, like its local rivals Qwikly, Tier, and Skoot Mobility, offered users access to the hop on, hop off form of motorised transport, which can reach speeds of up to 15 miles per hour, via a downloadable app.

The scooters cost around Dh2.99 to activate, and then 59 fils per minute from there on.

Dh2.99

Cost to activate an electric scooter on the app

Skoot Mobility, which was originally set to launch in Dubai on March 6, said on March 5 it had postponed its event without providing a reason.

In a statement sent to Gulf News on Monday, the company said it was working with regulators and waiting for permission to launch.

“Other companies can grab the headlines temporarily by invading the city and region uninvited with hundreds of kick scooters,” a spokesperson said, adding: “Skoot Mobility prefers to wait for an official green light.”

“We believe kick scooters can only be integrated into any city through open dialogue and collaboration with authorities.”

A spokesperson for Tier, the Berlin-based scooter business which raised €25 million in funding last year, said that the company was in “constant and good contact with all local authorities,” promising to return to Dubai “shortly”.

Critics say that the scooters are unsightly, and prone to vandalism, misuse and accidents. Supporters argue that they are accessible, affordable, and environmentally-friendly.

Cities across Europe and the US have seen a surge in scooters in recent months. In San Francisco, riders must be on the roads, and are legally required to wear helmets. Meanwhile, Madrid is attempting to force scooters on to its roads, limited to 18 miles per hour.

Conversely, it is technically illegal to ride on any road in Dubai that doesn’t have a bike lane, often forcing cyclists to ride on sidewalks.

$42b

Estimated value of electric scooter market by 2030

The electric scooter and motorcycle market is projected to reach $42 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research released last month.

Market leader Bird raised $300 million last summer at a reported valuation of $2 billion.