E-scooters had to make the trip to Rome. Then they became “death traps”

Rome (CNN) – Rome, the eternal city, has been attacked, conquered and plundered countless times since its founding nearly 2,800 years ago. Every attack has left scars all over the city, from the ruins of the Roman Forum to the cave of Circus Maximus, where chariots once competed.

Modern degradation has also left citizens angryfed up with what often feels like complacency in what is perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The current invasion of the Italian capital comes from electronic scooters – more than 14,000 of them – modern chariots that block sidewalks, annoy drivers and kill.

Since scooter rentals were introduced three years ago as an alternative to public transport during the Covid pandemic, four people have been killed while driving, according to Rome City Hall Mobility Adviser Eugenio Patan. City emergency services are treating at least one serious scooter-related injury every three days, health officials said.

Still, only 2% (about 270) of rented scooters are used daily.

Rome’s city has given licenses to seven companies responsible for replacing batteries, making repairs, moving scooters to high-traffic areas and retrieving them from the local Tiber River.

Scooters that are not used are the biggest challenge, especially for people with disabilities.

A Series of Fears

Officials say only 2% of Rome's 14,000 scooters are used.

Officials say only 2% of Rome’s 14,000 scooters are used.

Lorenzo Di Cola / NurPhoto / Getty Images

As Giuliano Frittelli, leader of the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired, rides with a cane about half a dozen scooters dotted on the sidewalk near his downtown office, he told CNN that for people who can’t see, they’re deadly. trap.

“The first problem is wild parking,” Frittelli said as he tapped his cane on the base of the scooter, explaining that their unusual shape also made it easier for visually impaired people to trip over them.

He also says that because they are electric, they are silent, which is also a threat to those who cannot see.

“You can’t hear them, so you can’t move around them,” Frittelli said, recalling an incident when a scooter passed a blind man so close that their frightened dog with insight jumped off the sidewalk, causing what he called a “series.” from fears “which fortunately did not end in physical injury.

Frittelli’s group is working with Rome’s city hall to make scooters mandatory only at certain stalls. He also wants them to be adapted to produce a noise level of at least 30 decibels so that it can serve as a warning for their approach.

He says it’s not just people with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs, who struggle to use the streets when sidewalks are littered with scooters. Elderly people and parents pushing prams are also affected.

Giuliano Frittelli

Giuliano Frittelli, left, wants scooters to be parked in certain places.


Rome City Councilor for Traffic Eugenio Patane agrees. He told CNN that from January 1, 2023, the city will renew the license for only 9,000 scooters and reduce the number of companies allowed to hire them to three.

He says the city also plans to require a percentage of scooters to be placed in suburbs and other areas so that ordinary citizens can use them for what he calls the “last mile” that can take them from a bus stop. subway to their homes or allow them to fulfill quick orders without jumping into a car.

“They are a danger to people, but they are also a problem for the city, for the beauty of the city,” says Patane. “The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is very fragile and we need to take care of it.”

Ignoring the rules

A tourist recently threw a scooter up the Spanish Steps.

A tourist recently threw a scooter up the Spanish Steps.

Roma Police Capital

In early June, two Americans were fined about $ 800 for renting scooters on the Spanish Steps, causing about $ 26,000 in damage to the fragile marble. The incident was filmed by security cameras and passers-by who saw one of the tourists throw the heavy metal scooter, catching the sound of it crashing into the steps.

E-scooters are mostly used by tourists and young people, says Patane.

And the rules are often ignored, especially those that prohibit the use of sidewalks and limit riders to one person. Tenants must also be 18 years of age or older. And the city can’t oblige rental companies to provide helmets, which means very few people wear them.

Police checks are rare and fines are rare for scooter users who break the basic rules, as it is difficult to enforce the sidewalk ban rule when scooters are usually parked on sidewalks.

However, they seem to be a hit among tourists. “Driving around, especially in the historic center, where it’s almost impossible by car, that’s it,” Walter Hughes of Dallas, Texas, told CNN.

“For that [two- or three-mile radius] that you drive around fast, you can’t find a place to park your car, it’s too hot to walk for five hours, so that’s all. ”

Not everyone agrees.

Taxi drivers, who have had to pass pedestrians and mopeds for years, say electronic scooters are a much bigger problem.

Eduardo Contichelo has had many gaps in his taxi and would like the scooters to be completely removed.

He tells CNN that they often stop in front of him or fall. “When I see them, I drive very, very slowly,” he explains, which adds time to his travels, which means his passengers pay more for them. – They are very dangerous.

But life in the eternal city has never been particularly easy in its 2,800 years. Rome was not built in one day, as they say. And his problems will not be solved in one.

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