UAE hospitals have reported a spate of injuries caused by electric scooter accidents, as safety experts urge riders to respect the rules of the road.
Doctors said broken bones, bruises and scrapes from falling off the two-wheelers – some can travel at more than 30 kilometres an hour – are now common.
Dr Taimoor Tung, from the Medcare Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital in Dubai, said medics had also seen head injuries, given that many rider shun helmets.
“They are mostly the results of the rider falling but there have been several cases involving collisions with vehicles," he said.
“The most common form of injuries being seen are fractures, sprains, bruises, wounds and sometimes head injuries."
Dr Tung said his hospital, on Sheikh Zayed Road near Downtown Dubai, has been treating at least three cases per week involving e-scooter riders.
Dubai's government approved the hire of e-scooters in five areas of the city in October 2020, as part of a year-long trial aimed at establishing their safe use.
Citywide, e-scooter rentals had been banned since early 2019, amid concerns over irresponsible use.
The use of privately-owned e-scooters is permitted.
Last year, police said private owners must also stick to the five trial areas, but the vehicles are seen in use across the city.
Abu Dhabi has allowed their use on the Corniche and Khalifa Street since October 2020, following a successful trial in 2019.
Venkata Kiran, an orthopaedic surgeon at Bareen International Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said riders often underestimate how fast e-scooters can travel.
“E-scooters are powerful machines that are not to be taken lightly,” he said.
The trend for riders to travel along the edge of the road in the direction of oncoming traffic is extremely hazardous and against the law.
Last week, The National's photographers caught numerous riders on busy roads and side streets – many on the wrong side of the road – in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Saleh Jafar, president of the Gulf for Yasa road safety group, said the milder weather and a fall in cost – to less than Dh1,000 ($272) for some models – meant more people are buying e-scooters.
“People need to take more care about not only their own safety, but that of others also,” he said.
“I’ve seen loads of people using them without helmets and I’ve even seen more than one person on an e-scooter at a time.
“These are vehicles that need to be used carefully, they are more powerful than bicycles and some are not far off motorbikes.”
Mr Jafar said it was also clear that people were ignoring the rules banning e-scooter use outside of their designated zones.
“You don’t really see as much on main roads. It’s more common to find people using them in their communities, compounds and down side roads,” he said.
“The management companies in those communities need to put a stronger emphasis on making sure people know they are not allowed to use them there.
“The companies selling them should also be held accountable. It should be mandatory that you are supplied with a helmet when you purchase an e-scooter.”
Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE portal, said e-scooter use in pedestrian areas, such as Dubai Marina, was a concern.
Last year, the authorities limited bicycle and e-scooter use to 12kph on Marina Walk, but riders are commonly seen weaving around pedestrians at much higher speeds.
“It is like the law of the jungle in Dubai Marina where so many people are using them everywhere,” he said.
“I have seen it first-hand and it’s an absolute nuisance. The people using the e-scooters don’t know how to behave.
“They have an attitude of ‘I can do what I want and don’t have to worry about pedestrians’."
E-scooters rentals can be legally used in Dubai in Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard; Dubai Internet City; 2nd of December Street, Al Rigga and Jumeirah Lakes Towers, as part of the pilot project.
Owners can be stopped by police if they are found outside of the five trial zones.
How e-scooters are regulated across the world
The rules regarding the use of e-scooters vary from country to country.
In the UK and Ireland, it is illegal to use them on public pavements and roads.
They are only permitted to be used on private land. Anyone caught using them in public areas faces a fixed fine of £300 ($420) and six penalty points on their driving licence.
In Paris, anyone using an e-scooter on pavements can expect a fine of €135 ($162), while blocking a pavement or doorway brings a €35 ($42) fine.
Sweden has completely banned e-scooters that can travel more than 20kmh from using designated cycle lanes.
Singapore and Spain have also banned e-scooters from pavements.