BERLIN (AFP) - Germany on Friday (May 17) authorised battery-powered scooters on its streets and cycle paths but banned them from pavements to protect pedestrians as the two-wheeled craze continues to spread across Europe.
Following fierce debate over road safety and the impact on traffic, the Upper House adopted a proposal by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer to approve the "electric propulsion vehicles" for road use.
Scheuer was forced to amend his initial suggestion to allow electric scooters on pavements, after it sparked an outcry from politicians, police unions and insurance groups.
Electric scooters will only be allowed on pavements in exceptional cases, to be expressly indicated by signs.
E-scooter users must stick to a speed limit of 20kmh and be aged 14 or older.
The decision opens up the market for mobility companies vying to provide electric scooters in Germany's cities with Berlin-based start-up Tier and Sweden's Voi up against US firms Lime and Bird, leaders in the fast-growing sector.
Even German car behemoth Volkswagen is eyeing the e-scooter market with plans to incorporate them into its own car-sharing scheme by the end of the year.
The presence of scooters will intensify the battle for space on Germany's streets, where cycling associations have long demanded more and wider bicycle paths.
"Conflicts are inevitable," Social Democrat politician Anke Rehlinger said on Thursday, adding that "continuous" effort should be made to define new rules for the e-scooters.
Scheuer labelled them a "genuine additional alternative for cars" in Germany's traffic-choked cities.