Malta is to ban rental electric scooters from March 1, the transport ministry has announced in a surprise move. 

It said it would remove hire scooters from the streets next year because of the "disturbances" endured by the community. 

Private e-scooters will still be allowed, with incentives introduced to encourage people to buy their own.

"This initiative aims to promote responsible e-kick scooter usage and reduce inconvenience for communities and people," the transport ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

"Despite increased enforcement and fines, communities have continued to endure the disturbances caused by rented e-kick scooters."

It said resources used on enforcement would instead be directed to road safety efforts.

Police and LESA issued 10,943 fines to e-scooter riders so far this year, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri told parliament this week. 

The announcement will likely come as a blow to operators and users of one of the few successful transport solutions in the country but will be welcomed by residents and pedestrians plagued by badly parked scooters. 

The government has long been dissatisfied with rental e-scooter companies such as Bolt and Bird, saying that riders often pose a danger to bystanders and block walkways when they park. 

Pedestrians and residents, especially in areas like Sliema and St Julian's have also complained about how e-scooters are parked, blocking pavements, pathways or garage access.

Several accidents involving pedestrians have also been reported.

Sliema residents 'joy'

Sliema Mayor John Pillow welcomed the announcement, saying he was already receiving messages from residents expressing their "joy" about the news.

“The problem was how they were introduced as, from the very beginning, there was a complete lack of rules and regulations,” he said.

He said he was not against e-scooters, and used them himself but that the only way they could be used responsibly is if they are owned rather than rented. 

“It’s the abuse that was the issue," he said.

But operators have previously said that e-scooters are one of the few successful alternative transport solutions in a country that is dominated by the car. 

They complain that reckless e-scooter parking was the fault of the government, which failed to provide infrastructure such as proper parking bays.

Last month, the director of Seven group, which operates bird scooters, Roberto Pestana said in a Times of Malta interview that the government was hell-bent on driving e-scooter companies out of the country with an “excessive, continuous and unfair” stream of daily fines.

There was no immediate reaction to the announcement from Bird and Bolt, which is the largest e-scooter operator in the country. 

However, bicycle advocacy group Rota expressed dismay at the ban and said flaws in the system were due to a lack of political vision and unwillingness to regulate shared micro-mobility.

Rota said the authorities should focus on providing better infrastructure for all by building wider pavements, ensuring adequate street lighting, having frequent pedestrian crossings with dropped kerbs and revoking all illegally obtained driving licences.

In September, Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia said the government was taking stock of the situation around e-scooter rentals. 

"One needs to look at the contraventions in the past few months and whether we can address that or not," Farrugia had said.

Malta follows in the footsteps of Paris, which in April became the first city in Europe to ban electric scooters for hire. However, it also announced it would replace them with thousands of electric bicycles and more bike lanes.

National cycling strategy

The surprise announcement came alongside the publication of a national cycling strategy, which the transport ministry claimed would provide a "measurable modal shift from private vehicles to bicycles". 

Its list of 30 measures includes bicycle lessons for children and adults and a connected network of cycling routes. 

There are an estimated 5,000 rental scooters in Malta. The micro-mobility system was particularly popular among tourists and foreign workers living in Sliema and St Julians.

It is the latest alternative transport solution to hit the brakes in the country.

Bicycle-sharing company Nextbike quit Malta last year citing competition from other micro-mobility solutions and a lack of infrastructure. 

Electric car-sharing service Go-To also closed down, saying there was a "lack of user uptake".


Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us