Updated 2 August: Only last week Arona explained that its clampdown on electric scooters would see fines and confiscations for use in pedestrian areas unless they were ridden by a disabled person at walking pace. Now, Adeje has joined Arona and announced that it has passed its own decree banning electric vehicles on footpaths, pedestrian zones and public spaces. The new decree overturns the council’s 2014 bylaw awarding licences to rent the machines, and reverts to the previous order that regulated use of public spaces and mobility devices for those with disabilities.
The decree has been approved and published in the BOC, and has now been activated, with the local police and relevant authorities adopting coordinated measures to monitor and control the new regulations. The local police now have specific orders to denounce and impose fines on individuals renting these machines as well as on companies who refuse to comply with the new law.
Adeje’s decision has been taken following a number of reports from the local tourism department and local police, as well as many complaints from both residents and tourists about these vehicles in pedestrian zones being driven without even basic consideration for the public, and resulting in some cases in injury and material damage. The council says that the use of these machines became completely imcompatible with conviviality or coexistence.
Updated 25 July: Arona Ayuntamiento says that it has met today with some twenty local businesses from both Arona and Adeje which rent out these scooters and explained the reasons behind its forthcoming clampdown. The council stressed that its bylaws specify that these vehicles may only be used in pedestrian areas, and only by those with a temporary or permanent disability which reduces their mobility. The council says that it has already confiscated more than 300 scooters in the last year – 30 over the last month alone – and that controls will now be tightened to ensure that the vehicles are legal and that they don’t pose a risk to pedestrians.
The new measures are in the final stages of being approved but are being enforced already. They will also apply to bicycles on pavements as already covered by the bylaw. For the council, the meeting was attended by Arona’s acting mayor José Antonio Reverón, works and services councillor José Luis González, tourism councillor David Pérez, and finance councillor Raquel García. They said that Arona, for its part, has not actually granted specific licences for this activity, the businesses being allowed to operate by permits which will now be reviewed. What the position is in Adeje is not yet clear, but out of the twenty businesses represented at the meeting, only three were from Arona, while seventeen were from Adeje municipality.
The council also clarified that those vehicles confiscated for driving – in what must be a pedestrian area and by someone who must be of reduced mobility – faster than a walking pace, which is the speed limit imposed by the bylaw, will not be returned. Tourism councillor Pérez said that the council regretted the personal circumstances of the businesses present, but the principal requirement was public order safety – and that it was hardly something that they couldn’t have known about. The council has spent weeks, he said, studying the current situation to draw up the new regulations, including usage and the sanctions which can be imposed.
Updated 24 July: Rumours abound about the “urgent measures” that were supposed to be passed by Arona Ayuntamiento over the course of this last week, the latest being that they have been “banned completely” – something I’ve now had umpteen emails asking me to confirm. The rumour is false, but the council has said that it will tighten up the local application of the law and impose hefty fines on vehicles being driven in pedestrian areas, and especially those being driven at high speed on pavements, and that the police will be given proper instructions on how to police the problem.
The police response is interesting. They say that the council has instructed them to come down on the problem like a ton of bricks – but they have no law to apply! Indeed, it seems that the road safety law that’s being tightened up for them to police has actually lapsed, so is no longer in force: the law concerned is Real Decreto Legislativo 339/1990, of 2 March 1990, a law that was in force until 31 January this year (link). Meanwhile, Jeremy Mills of Orange Badge questions how the police could anyway be required to judge what might be “high speed”, something that has no legal weight!
As far as Adeje is concerned, there are new measures afoot, it seems, but no clear announcement yet as to what’s intended, nor whether it will deliver the promised coordination with Arona. Seemingly it really is beyond the wit of man to come up with coordinated regulations restricting such vehicles to the disabled, and disallowing road vehicles on pavements … regulations that, moreover, also benefit from actually being in force.
Updated 12 July: In a seeming haze of amnesia about a bylaw passed last August (below), Arona has said that it is to take urgent measures and pass a decree this week to ban scooters. It is also hoping that Adeje will join in the measure, something that it actually did last September (link) in the wake of Arona’s first decision to clamp down on the problem, and establish rules along the whole of the south west holiday coast.
In the forefront of the sudden rush to activity is an open letter written by Orange Badge proprietor Jeremy Mills which he also posted to my Facebook page HERE, in which he says that serious accidents have now already happened and that a fatality is just a matter of time. Routinely, now, people say they’re not coming back to Tenerife because you’re taking your life in your hands just strolling along the sea front, and complaints are made about 30km/h drivers on double scooters sometimes with beer cans being waved around as they beep pedestrians to get out of their way.
And so, yet again, the answer to a problem seems to be to pass new regulations when there are already perfectly good regulations in place … which are either ignored or not communicated by council and local police. What is the point of new bylaws if these too are to get the same uninterested treatment? Will someone actually have to be killed?
Part of the problem, it seems clear, is that opening licences were granted under flexibilization schemes to help start-up businesses. These allowed operations to begin trading without the byzantine administration normally required. Economically, that makes sense, and it has clearly helped many small businesses set up that would otherwise never have got off the ground, but it has also resulted in a proliferation of the scooter market because it is a niche that clearly has a tourist appeal.
Surely what must happen is that the councils must revisit these licences and see whether they have licensed businesses to offer disability equipment, or tourist leisure facilities. If the latter, then it cannot be beyond the wit of man to legislate against tourist leisure activities including mowing down pedestrians, and driving road vehicles, while drunk, uninsured and unhelmeted, on pavements at a speed that at times it’s impossible to reach on the roads in the more congested parts of the south west coast.
“Something must be done” has now itself been done to death. What must actually be done is that the existing bylaws are checked to see if they are up to the job, improved where needed, and then enforced!
Update 26 January 2016: I know this has been a controversial topic, with people infuriated at the apparent lack of action on the problem – made worse by expectations of improvements after promises that the situation was being dealt with, and by the fact that rather than getting better, it seems to have become worse! I know, too, that my response of “complain to the council”, although accurate, is not altogether helpful to some because there is a language barrier, and it’s not always apparent which part of the council is the appropriate one. What’s needed is a name and a place to complain! And now there is one.
After the elections last year, Adeje set up a new council post – Concejal Especial de Playas, Transporte, Tráfico y Seguridad Vial (essentially a councillor for road safety and local police). The councillor is the concejal for the Costa Adeje area, Andres Pérez, and it is he who should be told when there is an issue involving these scooters. Most importantly, however, Clio O’Flynn, who is Adeje communication officer and author of the English Time blog – and broadcaster with English Time on Radio Sur Adeje – has said that if people contact her, they can do so in English, and she promises to translate every single complaint into Spanish and get them to Andres Pérez. She says that if she’s inundated, she can’t guarantee to reply personally to everyone, but she commits to getting every complaint to the councillor. Anyone who needs to do this can email Clio on Englishtime@adeje.es.
I do hope this helps at least resolve some of the frustration. Certainly it now provides a clear route through to the council for the repeated and increasing complaints about this problem, which the council is evidently trying to resolve.
Updated 24 September: Arona did it (below) and now Adeje is doing it too. At its monthly council session tomorrow, Adeje will modify the municipality’s bylaws to restrict the use of bicycles and motorized vehicles on footpaths and public spaces in order to give priority to pedestrians. Transport, traffic and road safety councillor Andrés Pérez Ramos said that the council needs to win back footpaths and public places for pedestrians. The council is also working on an overall plan to redesign certain areas in a more modern and user-friendly style regarding transport.
Pérez Ramos said the council was “aware of the need to encourage sustainable transport in the borough and will introduce a series of exceptional measures and conditions which will regulate use of electric/motorized transport on footpaths”. He said that “the renting of all kinds of electronic apparatus for transport purposes has generated a problem and created dangers, including for those using them, and is a form of abuse for pedestrians, creating real risk situations, insecurity and problems for the public”.
To address this problem the council will be adopting a series of modifications to existing bylaws which regulate this activity to properly outline exactly where and under what conditions such machines can be used in public zones and in line with the vision and needs of Adeje’s tourist zones. “A tourist destination such as ours has to preserve and guarantee proper use of its public spaces allowing the public to use them in comfort and safety, and any activity that is to be authorised must be compatible with ensuring that they (the public spaces) are pleasant and safe for pedestrians.”
Pérez Ramos also said that the council are currently considering the introduction of a bicycle lane along the coast road to be integrated in the public zones in existence. “This will mean a leap forward in sustainable transport possibilities in the borough, in our form of mobility, and should see an increase in the sporting and leisure use of the bicycle in general”.
Original post 7 August 2015: Arona has banned bicycles and two wheeled scooters, electrical and manual, from pedestrian areas. These vehicles are normally hired by tourists and give rise to many complaints and accidents. The ban was announced by Arona’s security councillor Juan Sebastián Roque, who said the bylaw banning the use of these vehicles in pedestrian walkways was against both national road security law as well as municipal bylaws.
Arona Policía Local have already confiscated some 120 scooters, and the council has met with the companies which hire them out to advise them that they are now illegal – at least in pedestrian areas. Roque said that the problem should be solved within a fortnight now, when the remainder of vehicles hired out are returned. He stressed that the measure did not apply to areas in which traffic is permitted, nor to invalid scooters.
New mayor Mena said that the council understood the concerns of residents and visitors, and that the companies concerned had responded well to the measures. He confirmed that the local police would ensure that the ruling, under bylaw and national law, was enforced.
NB: for the sake of clarity, this is what the council says:
El Ayuntamiento de Arona ha prohibido el uso de bicicletas y patinetes o scooters eléctricos en los paseos peatonales, vehículos que se alquilaban con fines turísticos …
The council of Arona has banned the use of bicycles and two-wheeled scooters or electrical scooters in pedestrian walkways, vehicles which are hired out for tourist purposes …
The ban even applies in general terms to disability vehicles – “scooters electricos” unless, as the council’s web page specifies, it’s a small electrical vehicle for someone whose disability “is accredited”.
As far as what “pedestrianised” means – again, I’ve been asked! – this word has a widely understood and quite specific meaning – i.e. not open to traffic, i.e. any area which you or I could not ordinarily drive our cars in. It does not mean those areas where specific vehicles, e.g. police or emergency, or maintenance, can go. It means you and me in our cars.