Abandoned in doorways or strewn across pavements, stray electric scooters have become a regular eyesore along the seafront stretching from St Julian’s to Msida.
And, now, the Local Enforcement System Agency (LESA) is fighting back.
Fines issued to e-scooter users and providers linked to “obstructions, dangerous parking and inconvenience to the public” have jumped from just four in 2020 to 793 so far this year.
Most of those – 725 – have only been issued since May. Each obstruction carries a €104.65 fine, as well as €23.25 for other inconveniences but all contraventions are pending judgment.
Laws regulating the use of e-scooters have been in place since 2019, stipulating that users “may park on pavements and promenades or on footpaths and in pedestrian zones but not in a manner as to obstruct the free flow of pedestrian traffic”.
The scooters have become increasingly popular with Transport Malta issuing 1,060 registrations, the vast majority (1,009) to the two companies, Bolt and Bird, which operate in the country.
In recent weeks, the social media has been awash with complaints from frustrated pedestrians having to navigate around carelessly parked scooters.
One mother, sick of coming across them while pushing her child’s pushchair, said: “As if the poor uneven paths and pavements were not an issue, now scooters are left in the middle of pavements, which I encounter so many times on my walks.”
LESA said the contraventions were mainly issued in Ta’ Xbiex, Pietà, Sliema, Gżira and St Julian’s as e-scooters are mostly used in these areas.
A spokesperson put the rise in fines down to the increase in the number of scooters in the country and said talks have been held with both providers to “help improve the situation”.
“We strongly believe that these e-scooters can be of great benefit to our communities but reiterate that they must be used diligently by following the laws to ensure the safety of both the users as well as the public.”
Bolt Malta said it takes parking issues very seriously, admitting they do come across badly parked scooters from ‘time to time’.
These can be reported through the Bolt app or else through their website. They advise scooter users to park near bike racks and avoid blocking the pavements.
But bicycle advocacy group ROTA says part of the problem is the lack of docking stations.
Its president, Michelle Attard Tonna, said docking stations should have been in place since the beginning but should now be provided.
“If these are not provided, the (scooter providers) should be penalised or not allowed to continue operating,” she said.
The problem of safety has also been highlighted by Times of Malta readers recounting near-misses or minor injuries by hard-to-hear scooters.
One elderly Sliema resident said she had become too frightened to walk along the seafront for fear she could be injured by a scooter whizzing by.
“One time, I decided to walk along Qui-Si-Sana when, all of a sudden, a male driver on an e-scooter came zigzagging towards me very fast and he was not slowing down at all,” she said.
To stop the e-scooter from slamming into her, she reached out to stop the scooter, who knocked into her.
“I was in a great shock and the driver was just shouting at me and did not apologise for bumping into me. I couldn’t believe it, I cried all the way back to my apartment,” she said.
“Since then, I am too frightened to walk on the front.”
Low-powered vehicles like electric scooters and bicycles are banned from Sliema promenades under the town’s by-laws. Under national laws, e-scooters are allowed on pavements and footpaths but limited to 10 kilometres per hour.
While such incidents have been recounted numerous times on social media, according to the police only seven traffic accidents involving e-scooters have taken place in 2021.
Police figures also show that there were only 13 e-scooter accidents reported in the past three years, one of which took place in Xewkija.
While Sliema is a hub for such e-scooters, only two accidents took place in the locality, one in 2020, when a 36-year-old woman was reported to have sustained ‘grievous’ injuries.
The other took place this year, when a 26-year-old woman suffered from ‘slight’ injuries.