Corona and micromobility: scooters are all the rage in Rome!
The current state of things in Rome (and Italy) at the moment can be summed up in “impossible pre-Corona” and “very much possible post-Corona”. This applies to a wide range of experiences: visiting the Vatican Museums with manageable queues (impossible pre-Corona!), finding bargains in some of the country’s best ranked vacation rentals, like our very own (if not impossible, at the very least it was… complex!) or even something as mundane as having seats available on public buses in the city center (same).
On the subject of buses, they travel for the most part half-empty because locals are weary about moving by public transportation at this time – many of the initial Coronavirus contagions happened on mass transit.
So something that was, again, impossible pre-Corona suddenly became not only widely available, but also… necessary: people still need to go to work or shopping, and all those rental electric scooters whose launch had remained in limbo for months on end suddenly became “desirable”. In economic terms, there was a demand and some company had a (major) supply. So, they have been allowed to operate all over central Rome.
Enter the “micromobility” revolution
Local politicians refer to the whole trend as “micromobility”: public transport that doesn’t take that much space, is environment-friendly, on the cheap side and can be used for small commutes.
Bike sharing was already a thing, whereas Romans never really warmed up to segways. However, with scooters, it’s a different story: this summer, everyone seems to have gone crazy about it!
Scooter operators, and where to find them
There are currently four companies operating a scooter rental service, and they all use a lock/unlock system that works through a dedicated app: Helbiz, Dott, Lime and Bird, each with their own mobile application.
Regardless of which brand of scooter you decide to pick (fares are pretty much the same), you will use said app to pay and to start/stop your rental, while commands on the handlebars of the scooters are there to… Drive!
There are no organized parking lots for scooters, which is why you’re likely to find them everywhere, except in direct view and proximity of landmarks. You won’t have issues locating them, though: so much so it has become a minor peeve for all residents… Just be aware of it when you end your rental (scooters blocking entryways or alleys are a big no-no).
The system is really straightforward, which is why many minors are also loving this new means of transportation.
Ten rules of the road for scooter drivers
Speaking of minors, they’re so enamored with scooters that they really didn’t care how they drove them – in the first few weeks of usage in Rome, there have been numerous accidents, luckily enough with no really serious consequences. So the mayor has tasked its local police to fine all reckless drivers.
The fact remains that electric scooters can be an alternative to car transport or public transport only if they are used according to traffic law. It should be intuitive, but just in case there are any, well, teenagers reading this ;-), here’s what you should remember:
- driving electric scooters is OK on bike lanes and, where not available, on the right side of any road;
- if you’re in a group, ride in a single line;
- it is NOT allowed to drive on pavements: only do so if there is absolutely no one around, or if there is enough space for both you and pedestrians (use your common sense!);
- no going over 6 kms/h (roughly 9.6 miles an hour) in pedestrian areas or pedestrian-only streets;
- only ONE person at a time per electric scooter;
- you cannot drive against traffic;
- traffic lights must be obeyed;
- signal with your arm when needing to turn right or left;
- bike helmets are mandatory for all of those riding scooters and underage; for those over the age of 18, it is optional;
- while riding a scooter at night, you MUST turn on its lights.
A false-friend is around the corner!
Finally, a warning: “scooter” is the term Italian for moped.
So, when speaking in English to a local, don’t be surprised if you ask for a scooter rental and find yourself looking at a Vespa (or another two wheeler!). The Italian word for electric scooter is “monopattino elettrico“. Or just “monopattino“, for short.
Yes, it might seem a tricky word, but knowing it will save you from mild embarassment – trust us on this!