Rental scooter chaos prompts Kyiv to start regulation
Launching electric scooter sharing in Kyiv, a city with neither the suitable infrastructure nor regulations, was a time bomb. And it exploded.
Since they first appeared on the capital’s streets last year, the number of available scooters has grown to 4,000, becoming more common around Kyiv than sketchy Apple stores.
Amid road traffic frustration and limited access to public transport during the COVID‑19 lockdowns, scooters have become the go-to tools to get around the city.
But as their popularity has grown, so have injuries and accidents.
Just one Kyiv trauma center in Shevchenko District gets an average of six patients with scooter injuries every month, according to traumatologist Oleh Kyryliuk. Kyiv has 14 such state trauma centers and dozens of private clinics.
As the number of scooters in the city is expected to grow to 7,000 by the end of the year, Kyryliuk says his trauma center is bracing itself.
“With more scooters on the roads, we will be seeing more injuries,” Kyryliuk told the Kyiv Post.
On June 24, Kyiv authorities finally took the first steps regulating scooters by getting all seven services operating in the city to sign a memorandum that introduces new rules.
But as the document is more advisory than mandatory, the need for national legislation and punishment for violations persists.
Confusion and danger
One of the secrets behind scooters’ popularity in Kyiv is how accessible they are. Anyone can install an app, add online payment and start renting in minutes.
Actually riding the scooters is not as simple since it’s not clear where exactly they’re allowed.
Unlike cars, motorcycles and bicycles, scooters are not classified under Ukrainian legislation. “We can’t determine where they should be used,” Bogdan Lepiavka, chairman of non-profit U-Cycle, told the Kyiv Post.
One of the many confused scooter users is Alexey Chemerys, who recently collided with a car on a road. He says he wasn’t sure where he could ride his scooter and “even when the police came to an accident, they could not answer this question.”
The lack of classifications means users are free to choose where to ride — on roads, sidewalks or bicycle lanes. But since lanes are rare in the city, riders are mostly left with the first two options. Most tend to pick the safer choice of sticking to the sidewalks, which, is still dangerous for pedestrians. Meanwhile, the braver ones whoosh along the roads, risking accidents or damaging cars.
Sofia Marchenko says her car was rammed by a scooter user at a red light. The rider left a big dent and fled the scene, leaving Marchenko on the hook for repairs. “I was quite angry about it,” she told the Kyiv Post.
Another critical issue is the scooters’ speed, which can reach that of a small motorcycle, 30–35 kilometers an hour. Newbies appear to struggle with controlling their scooters at high speed, putting both themselves and pedestrians at risk.
Katya Solovyova says she lost con
trol on her first scooter ride and ended up in the emergency room with a broken leg. “If it is your first time, you have to be careful,” she says.
But the whole city cannot rely on riders being careful, which is why Kyiv wants to regulate scooter use.
Approaches to regulation
The new rules came in the form of a memorandum prepared by the Kyiv City State Administration and signed by all seven scooter rental services operating in the capital. The list includes Bolt, Kiwi, Scroll, BikeNow, Zelectra, Jet and Vzhooh.
“Scooters are currently not regulated on the national legislative level, and while this law is absent, the city stepped up to the plate,” Anna Danylenko from Kyiv administration’s transport infrastructure department says.
The nearly 80-page document addresses some of the biggest concerns. The maximum speed has been brought down to 20 kilometers per hour.
It also introduced restrictions on where scooters can be used. They will automatically shut off when entering certain pedestrian-only areas, government building properties and zones around churches and graveyards.
Scooters will also be parked at 5–10 locations each morning, instead of being scattered across the city.
Many experts saluted the document for at least setting some boundaries. However, this should be just the first step, according to Lepiavko, since without a national law, there is no mechanism to punish those who break the rules.
The memorandum doesn’t concern private scooter owners. Lepiavko explains that users can buy scooters in stores that do not adhere to the memorandum’s speed limits, ride in the restricted areas and have no accountability, since it’s not legally binding.
Legislation has been the European approach to dealing with scooter injuries — with countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Poland banning imports of scooters that can go faster than the local speed limits.
Lepiavko says Ukraine should take the same course. But apart from regulating speed, he believes building infrastructure like cycling lanes and increasing people’s awareness of traffic laws are key to safe scooter use.
According to Lepiavko, in all countries where the scooter sharing
service has popped up, accidents have increased. How safe the streets become after regulation is introduced depends on the approach the authorities have taken.
“In countries with the highest level of safety, the legislation is directed at the molding of citizens’ behavior,” not restrictions. This is the direction Ukraine should lean towards, Lepiavko says.
“We have to develop the suitable infrastructure for this type of transport because it is already here, and it won’t be going anywhere.”