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Spain sees first case of a pedestrian killed by an electric scooter

Judge is probing whether the youth who accidentally hit a 90-year-old woman was looking at his phone

Atropello patinete electrico
The street where the accident occurred.

A judge is investigating the death of an elderly woman who was hit by an electric scooter as she was out for a stroll in the Catalan town of Esplugues de Llobregat last August.

This is the first known case in Spain of a pedestrian getting killed by a personal transporter, and it has raised renewed concerns about the proliferation of alternative mobility devices in cities across Spain.

What happened to her could happen to anyone. When I see one of those scooters going by at full speed I get the shivers

Manoli, store manager

Last month, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said there would be reforms to the criminal code to try to address the conflict between pedestrians and users of these devices.

The minister said that users themselves were “vulnerable,” but added that “they can also cause significant harm to third parties” depending on how they use the device.

Prosecutors and the judge in charge of investigating the August incident suspect that the youth who was riding the scooter was looking down at his cellphone when he crashed into the 90-year-old woman, who was out for her daily stroll with her walker.

Tourists on a Segway tour of Barcelona.
Tourists on a Segway tour of Barcelona.

The youngster is facing possible charges of involuntary manslaughter, while a second youth who was with him has been summoned as a witness in the case. Sources familiar with the investigation told EL PAÍS that the rider was using the Google Maps app on his phone when he crashed into the woman.

The accident took place on a pedestrianized section of the Rambla del Carme thoroughfare. The scooter was moving at a speed of nearly 30 km/h, which is normal for this type of personal mobility device.

An earlier death

On October 23, a woman who was herself riding an electric scooter died after falling off the device and getting run over by a truck in Sabadell, in the province of Barcelona.

The woman fell and hit her head against the pavement. She was taken to Moisès Broggi Hospital in critical condition, and died a few days later. Several sources said that prior to the accident she had been in good health despite her advanced age, and that she went out for walks every day.

The victim was a familiar figure in the neighborhood, said Manoli, the manager of an upholstery store located on Rambla del Carme. “She was always going up and down with her walker. She was very well-known,” she said.

City bylaws

Several municipalities, including Madrid and Valencia, have already introduced rules banning the use of scooters on sidewalks. In August 2017 Barcelona moved to ban Segways and electrically-powered scooters and skateboards from the historic city center. And the Spanish traffic authority (DGT) is working on national guidelines.

Manoli, the store owner in Esplugues, wants these devices to be regulated in order to avoid new tragedies. “What happened to her could happen to anyone. When I see one of those scooters going by at full speed I get the shivers.”

The deputy director of mobility at Spain's traffic authority, Jorge Ordás told EL PAÍS that his department is looking to set a national speed limit for scooters at 25 km/h. 

English version by Susana Urra.

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