There has been significant growth in the sales of electric scooters over the past three years. The sales of other personal mobility vehicles, such as Segways, have been less dramatic, but they have all become a common sight. Easy to use, they don't require a licence. They are also green and healthy.
For Sonia Jichi, however, the healthiest ways of getting around in Palma are on foot or on a bike. The spokesperson for the association for the defence of pedestrians, she regrets the fact that pedestrians and cyclists are obliged to have to share the same spaces of these new means of mobility. "Eighty per cent of Palma is for motor vehicles; the remainder is for everything else. We can't carry on like this. Pedestrians have to demand their space in the same way as cyclists and scooter users do. If not, coexistence becomes difficult." She is critical of the town hall for not having created sufficient bike lane infrastructure.
The electric scooter industry has benefited from what has been a legal vacuum. While the national traffic directorate has issued instructions about scooter use, there isn't national legislation that regulates personal mobility vehicles (PMVs). It's left to town halls and their bylaws, and these can get bogged down in bureaucracy.
Palma passed its bylaw in June last year, while Inca approved its in March. In Manacor, the process has yet to start. Despite examples of local ordinance, a good deal of work is still needed in order to control all "irregularities" which can arise from the use of scooters and other PMVs.
The bylaw in Palma is, nevertheless, pretty comprehensive. For instance, there is an age stipulation - fifteen and over - and only one person can be on vehicles, which have to abide by usual technical requirements for others means of mobility: lights and brakes in order, for example. Reflective jackets are recommended but are not obligatory. Scooters can use bike lanes under the same conditions as those for cyclists and also use pavements where exceptional conditions permit this. Otherwise, they are not meant to be used in squares, on pavements, in parks and other public spaces. They all too often are.
Between September last year and July this year, Palma police fined 49 VMP users. Fifteen of these fines were for wearing headphones, nine were for not meeting regulations for lights, and a further nine were for travelling in the wrong direction.
Last year, there were 79 accidents. There have been 54 so far this year. Miquel Pericàs from Tráfico in Palma says this type of personal mobility is "the future". As scooters are most popular among the young, he adds that it is important that Palma police's traffic education in schools covers them.
An issue which is looming is the town hall approval of "Palma 30", by which 90% of streets in the city will have a 30 kph speed limit. Personal mobility vehicles will be able to use these streets.