Italian cities are in the grip of electric scooter fever as many people switch from public transportation, prompted by a unique incentive program initiated by the government. Electric scooters or monopattini, as they are called in Italy, are both silent and ecologically sound, but the reason that they are now conquering Italian cities from Bolzano in the north to Palermo in the south, is a government subsidy of up to 60 percent of the purchase price of the scooter, with a maximum payment of 500 euros. The Italian government has set aside 120 million euros for the program, which is part of the ‘Relaunch Decree’ and will continue through the end of the year.
Users of Rome’s scooter-sharing program clocked over 12,500 miles last week alone or the equivalent distance of more than 20 round trips from the Eternal City to Milan. While a switch to bikes and scooters has already been seen in other parts of Europe, Italians love their cars and thus far the country has remained steadfastly reliant on the automobile as the main mode of transportation, even in large cities.
The government subsidy program not only covers electric scooters, but also bicycles, e-bikes, segways, hoverboards and subscriptions to transport sharing services, but not car sharing. The incentive plan is open to residents of cities and towns with more than 50,000 residents.
Numerous cities have also promised to extend cycle lanes to facilitate increased use of single person people movers. Milan has already announced plans to transform roads in its city center, pledging to make more than 20 miles more accessible to cyclists by adding bike lanes, widening pavements and lowering speed limits. Rome has indicated that it will speed up plans to extend its bike paths, starting with an extra 15 miles of routes in residential areas outside the city’s center. Three of the main companies offering electric scooter sharing in Rome, Milan and a growing number of other Italian cities are U.S. companies Bird, Lime and Helbiz. Rules for electric scooters require the rider to be at least 14 years old and those 14-18 must wear a helmet. The maximum speed is 15 miles per hour and no passengers or seats are permitted. It is also forbidden to use scooters on highways or roads with a speed limit above 31 mph.