E-scooters were supposed to fix travel in Rome. Then they became “death traps.”

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

Recent decline has also caused outrage among the citizens, and they are tired of what often feels like complacency in what is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The current invasion of the Italian capital of e-scooters – more than 14,000 of them – comes from modern buggies that clog sidewalks, annoy drivers and kill.

Since rented scooters were introduced three years ago as an alternative to public transportation during the Covid pandemic, four people have died riding them, according to Rome City Hall Mobility Council member Eugenio Bataan. Health authorities say city emergency rooms treat at least one scooter-related injury every three days.

However, only 2% (about 270) of rental scooters are used on a daily basis.

Rome City Hall has given licenses to seven companies responsible for changing batteries, making repairs, and transporting scooters to high-traffic and fishing areas outside the city’s Tiber River.

It is unused scooters that present the biggest challenge, especially for the disabled.

series of bets

Officials say only 2% of the 14,000 scooters rented in Rome are in use.

Lorenzo de Cola / NourPhoto / Getty Images

As Giuliano Fritelli, president of the Italian Federation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, navigates with his walking stick around six scooters scattered on the sidewalk near his downtown office, he told CNN that for people who don’t see, they are a death trap.

“The number one problem is parking in the wild,” Fritelli says, tapping his walking stick onto the base of a scooter, explaining that its unusual shape makes it easy for someone with low vision to stumble over it.

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

“You don’t hear them, so you can’t move around them,” Fritelli says, recalling an incident in which a motorcyclist passed a blind person closely, and their stunned dog jumped off the sidewalk, causing what he called a “streak of panic” that luckily did not end with physical injuries.

The Frittelli Group is working with Rome City Hall to make scooters parked only in designated kiosks mandatory. He also wants to adapt it to produce a noise level of at least 30 decibels so that it can serve as a warning that it is approaching.

He says disabled people, including those using wheelchairs, aren’t the only ones who struggle to use the streets when scooters litter the sidewalks. Older adults and parents who push strollers are also affected.

Giuliano Fritelli

Giuliano Fritelli, left, wants scooters to be mandatory in designated places.

CNN

Eugenio Battani, a member of the Rome City Hall Traffic Council, agrees. He told CNN that as of January 1, 2023, the city will renew permission for just 9,000 motorcycles and reduce the number of businesses allowed to rent them to three.

He says the city also plans to require a percentage of the scooters to be placed in suburbs and other areas so that ordinary citizens can use them for what he refers to as the “last mile” that can take them from a subway station to their places. homes or let them run quick errands without jumping in the car.

“They are a danger to people, but they are also a problem for the city, for the beauty of the city,” says Patani. “The city center is a UNESCO heritage site and it is very fragile and we have to take care of it.”

Ignore the rules

A tourist recently threw a scooter down the Spanish stairs.

A tourist recently threw a scooter down the Spanish stairs.

Metropolitan Police of Rome

In early June, two Americans were fined about $800 for throwing rental scooters down Spanish stairs, causing $26,000 in damage to the brittle marble. The incident was captured by security cameras and by passersby who watched a tourist throw the heavy metal scooter, and picked up the sound of it crashing into the stairs.

Pattani says e-scooters are primarily used by tourists and young adults.

And the rules, especially those that prohibit use on sidewalks and limit their occupants to one person, are often ignored. Tenants are also supposed to be 18 years old. Nor can the city require 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 because the no berth rule is difficult to enforce when scooters are generally parked on pavements.

They seem to be a hit with the tourists. Getting around, especially in the Historic Center where it’s almost impossible in a car, that is,” Walter Hughes, of Dallas, Texas, told CNN.

“For this [two- or three-mile radius] You’re riding fast, you can’t find a parking space, it’s too hot to walk for five hours, so that’s how it is. ”

Not everyone agrees.

Taxi drivers who have had to switch between pedestrians and scooters for years say e-scooters are a much bigger problem.

Eduardo Contesello has had several near misses with his taxi and would like the scooters to be scrapped altogether.

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

But life in the Eternal City has never been particularly easy in 2,800 years. Rome was not built in a day, they say. And its problems will not be solved in one either.

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