Japan is set to relax regulations on electric scooters starting in July, allowing individuals aged 16 and above to ride them without a driver’s license
This move has been met with enthusiasm by electric-scooter sharing companies and others who anticipate enhanced convenience as a result. However, there are concerns about an influx of riders who may not be familiar with traffic regulations typically learned at driving schools.
Electric kick scooters are equipped with motors that propel them forward without requiring users to continually push against the ground. These vehicles gained popularity in Japan around 2021, primarily among individuals in their 20s and 30s, many of whom use them for commuting purposes.
Generally, these scooters are expected to be ridden on roadways. However, users are allowed to ride them on sidewalks where bicycles are permitted, as long as they maintain a speed no greater then 6 kph and display a flashing green light.
Daiki Okai, the 29-year-old president of Luup, a Tokyo-based electric scooter sharing service operator, expressed enthusiasm about the upcoming changes, stating, “We’ll have a big opportunity… The user base will expand.”
Luup currently leases electric kick scooters from approximately 3,000 locations primarily in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. The company aims to increase this number to around 10,000 by 2025.
The Japanese government also holds high expectations for electric scooters, recognising their ability to meet diverse needs, including those of tourists seeking rental options. A representative from the industry ministry, responsible for promoting the widespread use of these vehicles, expressed support for this development.
However, some individuals have voiced concerns regarding the revision of traffic rules. A collective of local residents’ and shopkeepers’ associations in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district highlighted the instances of rule violations by scooter riders on sidewalks and pedestrian zones even before the regulatory changes. Yoshikuni Matsuzawa, the head of the group’s environment and safety division, stressed concerns about potential accidents involving pedestrians, as the absence of a license requirement might result in insufficient rider preparation.
In September of last year, a man tragically lost his life in Tokyo after falling from an electric scooter. It is believed that he was under the influence of alcohol while operating the vehicle. In response, electric scooter companies are intensifying their efforts to prevent dangerous driving incidents. For example, Luup suspends users’ accounts if they are found to have ridden while under the influence of alcohol. Similarly, BRJ, a company operating an electric scooter sharing service primarily in Tachikawa, Tokyo, ceases vehicle rentals at midnight to discourage drunken driving.