Users of electric scooters in Barcelona do not know half the basic traffic rules

A study by the RACC indicates that 94% of them break the speed limit of bike lanes on pavements

Joana Garreta Passola
3 min
An electric scooter in Barcelona.

BarcelonaUsers of personal mobility vehicles (PMVs) - mainly electric scooters, but also other similar devices - circulating in Barcelona are unaware of 51% of basic traffic rules, such as when you have to wear a helmet, use lights or what areas these vehicles are allowed on. All this according to the study The behavior of users of personal mobility vehicles in Barcelona (2021), carried out by the RACC. The president of the organisation, Josep Mateu, has stressed the need to "promote knowledge of the rules of use" as well as "general traffic regulations", while considering that it would have to add signage to help users. In addition, he proposed that compulsory training, which could be free of charge, should be required in order to be allowed to drive these vehicles in the city.

According to 600 surveys and more than 3,000 observations made within the framework of the study, users respect speed limits in an unequal way. Thus, 94% of the users break the speed limit when riding on bike lanes located on the pavement (10 km/h), but 97% respect it when the bike lane is on the road (25 km/h). That is why Mateu calls for all bike lanes to be moved from the pavement to the road. 19% of those surveyed admitted that they go faster than allowed if there are no other users using the same road, and 9% admitted that they have their vehicle customised to remove the factory-installed regulation speed limit which the obliges them to do so

In cases where there is no bike lane, 43% explain that they circulate on the sidewalk and 41% do it on the road. Both practices are banned outside 30 zones; if there is no cycle lane, they would have to stop the vehicle and walk the distance. In 30 zones, one out of three also admits that they ride on the pavement, even though they should not have to do so. On the other hand, the use of mobile phones has decreased from 34% last year to the current 24%. However, the use of headphones while driving has increased from 39% to 45%.

The use of these vehicles is still minoritarian, with 0.85% of users using them, but it has experienced exponential growth, according to the RACC. Moreover, it is the only type of vehicle that has increased its number of users, even in absolute figures, during the covid restrictions, when mobility was reduced and other means of transport expereienced a drop.

Involved in 5% of accidents

Although personal mobility vehicles are not yet in general use, they are involved in an increasing number of road accidents. Although only 0.85% of users use this means of transport to get around, 5.3% of accidents have involved one of these vehicles. This puts the ratio at the same level as the accident rate for motorcycles, used in 6% of cases, but involved in 30% of accidents, and away from bicycles, which have a much lower ratio: one to two.

While 78% of accidents are minor, 2% are serious and during the first half of 2021 two people riding an electric scooter were killed in an accident. One was a 15-year-old boy who, according to current regulations, could not drive a PMV. The total number of deaths in traffic accidents in Barcelona in the same period is eight people: apart from the two users of these vehicles, there are five motorcyclists and one pedestrian. This is linked to the insecurity felt by users of this type of transport. 57% feel vulnerable, especially with regard to motor vehicles. On the other hand, regarding the tram and pedestrians, PMV users feel safe, despite the fact that 26% of the accidents they have involve pedestrians.

81% of users believe the city's parking facilities are subpar and 78% believe there are not enough charging points . More than 50% of the users disagree with the prohibition of driving on the pavements and the roads. What users of personal mobility vehicles value most highly are the segregated traffic lanes, with a 79% approval rating, as well as the continuity of the bicycle lane network and coexistence with other users, with an approval rating of over 60%.