Electric scooters will be available for hire in five areas of Dubai from Monday, as part of a year-long trial aimed at establishing their safe use in the emirate.
People who own e-scooters will also be able to be use them freely - but only in those designated zones, a senior transport official confirmed to The National.
Last week, Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority said the pilot project would be rolled out in Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard; Dubai Internet City; 2nd of December Street, Al Rigga and Jumeirah Lakes Towers.
E-scooter rentals were banned in early 2019 amid concerns over irresponsible riders.
The sale and private use of two-wheelers continued, albeit in a legal grey area, and the authorities only stopped riders if they rode dangerously.
From this week, e-scooter owners could be stopped by police if they are found outside of the five trial zones.
And strict rules will govern their use in those districts, banning them from pavements and restricting them to bicycle paths.
“There will be road markings and signage so that it will be safe for people to use,” said Hussain Al Banna, executive director of traffic at the RTA.
“We have to separate scooters and pedestrians so there won’t be any accidents or injuries.
"E-scooters are currently not permitted anywhere in Dubai. Although you can see some people using them, police are enforcing the law as much as possible in order to safeguard people's lives.
"Now with this project we will allow five companies to offer a rental service where they can use the e-scooters in five designated areas."
Local start-ups Arnab and Skurrt, as well as established operators Careem, Lime and Tier, will rent out e-scooters in the areas.
The rental cost is yet to be set out. Helmets, which cyclists must already wear by law, should be worn at all times.
“If people have scooters they can use them also, but only in these designated areas,” said Mr Al Banna.
E-scooters could be permitted on the city's network of bicycle tracks, but that depends on the outcome of the trial.
“We said we would be conservative at the start. We will do it as a pilot,” said Mr Al Banna.
“Many cities internationally have stopped it. It was not studied properly.
“There were no rules or signage, so people were using them everywhere, on the road, the footpaths. And other cities like Paris have done it nicely, with specific rules.”
France has banned e-scooters from pavements, while Berlin has tightened rules, including limiting their use to bikeways only. Barcelona has gone even further, banning electric scooter rentals entirely.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, was recently briefed on the e-scooter trial and plans to extend cycling paths by 88 kilometres across eight districts as part of a five-year masterplan.
Dubai's cycle network ambitions
Mr Al Banna said the first two phases will link the beach-side community of Jumeirah with Al Sufouh, which is home to many of the city's universities and the first station on the Dubai Tram route, and the Downtown rea to Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC).
“Every year we will create a certain number of kilometres of tracks,” said Mr Al Banna.
“For example, next year, we have a focus on linking Jumeirah with the Sufouh area. And we have also a focus on linking the Boulevard with DIFC with Trade Centre, with Emirates Towers. We have a plan to link those areas together.”
Priority has been given to the construction of tracks in three districts, spanning total of 31km.
The first 16km stretch extends from Jumeirah Beach, parallel to the existing pedestrian track, passes along Al Sufouh Street before linking with the existing cycling track at the King Salman Street, near Dubai Marina.
The second 7km route runs from the Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard to the cycling track on Jumeirah Street in the DIFC district and the 2nd of December Street.
The third (8 km) section links cycling tracks at Al Khawaneej and Al Warqaa through the Sheikh Zayed bin Hamdan Al Nahyan Street and Tripoli Street.
News of the extension of the tracks has been welcomed among the cycling community in Dubai.
“Dubai already has world-class cycling facilities and you can easily cycle around communities but you couldn’t cycle from one community to another,” said Andy Fordham, founder of the Dubai Cycling Community group.
“This will change that. The next step is for people to able to take their bikes on public transport, such as the metro.
“You can bring your bike onto trains in the rest of the world. Once that happens it will really open up Dubai as a cycle friendly city.”
But he said a culture change was required.
“We would need to educate motorists about driving with cyclists on the road,” he said.
“We live in an age where so many drivers are distracted when they are behind the wheel, especially with mobile phones.
“It only takes a moment of inattention for something to go wrong.”