New e-scooter rules in Dubai will help to tackle reckless riders, but users say the regulations will have a "huge impact" on youths, with under-16s barred from travelling on the two-wheel vehicles.
Dubai's government updated the rules for the popular mode of transport last month, including an requirement to have a riding permit from May 1.
Children under the age of 16 are not allowed to ride e-scooters under the safety protocols.
The measures are being introduced as Dubai expands its e-scooter network to support "last-mile" journeys to cut road congestion and help the environment.
More than 2,000 new rental scooters have been placed in 10 districts across the city.
People can hire an e-scooter by downloading an app, registering their details and scanning a QR code on their phone. The vehicles can travel at up to 20 kilometres an hour.
Parent calls for e-scooter tests for younger riders
Residents and tourists have backed the regulations, concerns have been raised over the decision to prohibit under-16s from using e-scooters.
“For people over the age of 18 who have a driver’s licence, it’s fine, but I'm a full-time working mother of three and two of my boys use their e-scooters to go back and forth to school,” said Jenny Hamdan.
“There are literally hundreds of e-scooters in the school parking lot, so kids rely on them as a form of transport.
“My boys are aged 12 and 15, so it would be nice if there was some kind of consideration for younger age groups, say from 12 upwards.”
Ms Hamdan suggested allowing young people to take a test to allow them to ride, with restrictions on where they could use the e-scooters.
“The introduction of these permits is going to have a huge impact on me because it means my boys can no longer ride their scooters,” she said.
“I'm now going to have to manage my working hours around the school pick-up and drop-off and my boys are going to lose that sense of independence.”
New legislation 'a good move'
Alexis Sworder, 40, has owned an e-scooter for two years and said it allowed her to avoid traffic at busy times.
It also allowed her partner to use their shared car, she said.
“I live in Dubai Marina and use an e-scooter to travel to my office in Internet City, visit friends and go to my local gym,” she said.
“I think it’s a good move introducing mandatory permits or licences, because many e-scooter riders get a bad rap for speeding or riding recklessly. But how are they realistically going to police it?”
With more rules on the use of e-scooters, it may encourage users to ride more safely, she said.
“It’s good that they’re introducing more ride zones too, as I’m always a little confused about where I can actually ride,” she said.
Riding permits to be introduced soon
Applications for permits will be available at the end of April on the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority website.
The authority has announced that those without a full driving licence will be required complete a brief course before applying for a permit, a move that aims to improve road safety.
The addition of e-scooters operated by four hire companies – Tier, Lime, Arnab and Skurtt – has expanded options around the city and could encourage more people to use buses and trains.
Eliza Robertson, 22, a tourist from the UK, said the regulations would improve safety.
“We have had scooters in London for a while and they can be a menace, and seem to be largely unregulated,” she said.
“Making riders without a licence apply for a permit would probably deter some of the more reckless riders we see in the UK, if there was adequate enforcement with traffic cameras.
She found e-scooters in Dubai easy to use and said dedicated lanes for electric bikes and scooters “felt safe and welcoming with no traffic".
Josh Scott, 23, who was visiting Dubai from Britain, said the rules may be a barrier for some users.
“Cheap and easy access to e-scooters democratises travel and frees those who can’t afford taxis to go wherever they want,” he said.
“While it is easy and affordable to rent a scooter, regulation confuses the process and not everyone will be aware that you will need a permit to ride one if you don’t have a driving licence.
“Taxis are getting more expensive with fuel prices rising, so this is an attractive, cheaper alternative for short trips than an electric car, and would encourage more people to use public transport."
International company Tier is a newcomer to the UAE market and is also set to expand rental e-scooter and electric bike services to Abu Dhabi.
A fleet of micro-mobility vehicles will be introduced in Ruwais, a city 230km west of Abu Dhabi where many workers in the oil industry live.
Riders pay a Dh3 ($0.80) activation fee and then Dh1 a minute using a credit card.
Like other rental companies, Tier e-bikes must be parked in marked zones after use.
“Our first fleet of e-bikes in the UAE will allow residents to travel longer distances using a sustainable transport method,” said Amir Melad, managing director for Tier in the Middle East.