Parliament’s two independent MPs are adamant that regulations governing e-scooters should be eased to encourage their use and reduce people’s reliance on their cars and on fossil fuels in a private member’s bill discussed in Parliament today.
However, the motion appears to be set to be rejected when MPs vote on it tomorrow, as the government has signalled its disagreement with the amendments presented by Godfrey Farrugia and Marlene Farrugia.
Under regulations presented last year, e-scooter users are required to have a valid driving license and insurance policy, while contraventions and penalties are equal – and in some cases higher – than those applicable to motorists. Their use is also prohibited in arterial roads and certain distributor roads.
In their bill, the two independent MPs argue that the regulations appear to be disproportionate, stating that the authorities should do more to encourage the use of e-scooters, as well as to educate motorists to reduce the risk of those using them. The bill does not include any specific amendments, but calls for a review of existing regulations “to reflect the reality of this means of alternative transport.”
MP touts environmental benefits
Godfrey Farrugia, a medical doctor, argued that air pollution was one of Malta’s greatest health issues, noting that estimates suggest that it was responsible for around 500 premature deaths every year.
The MP noted that e-scooters were cheap, clean and particularly suited for short trips. Since around 60% of car journeys covered distances of 5km or less, he said that the use of so-called micromobility devices, such as e-scooters and bicycles, should be encouraged as much as possible.
“We need to encourage this means of transport to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” he said.
Minister stands by current regulations
In his own speech, Nationalist MP David Thake questioned the requirement for a licence and insurance, stating that such imposed costs continued to reduce the viability of e-scooters.
“Safety is obviously important, but we shouldn’t close our eyes to the need to reduce our dependence on cars,” he said.
But while Transport Minister Ian Borg welcomed the discussion, stating that he could not recall a parliamentary sitting where MP’s criticism had been so mature, he stood by the regulations his ministry put forward. He insisted that the regulations struck a balance between two extremes.
Among other things, he defended the requirement for an insurance policy, noting that people could be hurt if hit by an e-scooter.
And ultimately, government signalled its disagreement at the end of the sitting, though since a division of the house was called, a formal vote will be held tomorrow.