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Usain Bolt Brings His E-Scooters to Japan

Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt poses for a photograph as he shows off an electric scooter at a launch event in Tokyo, Japan November 15, 2019. (REUTERS/Kevin Buckland)
Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt poses for a photograph as he shows off an electric scooter at a launch event in Tokyo, Japan November 15, 2019. (REUTERS/Kevin Buckland)
Usain Bolt Brings His E-Scooters to Japan
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Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt co-founded the company Bolt Mobility last year in the U.S. Now, he is bringing his electric scooters to Japan. He hopes officials will see the environmental value in the vehicles and amend some laws on their use.

Under current Japanese laws, electric scooters, also known as e-scooters, must be used on roads and have license plates. And riders must have a motorcycle license.

But Bolt Mobility wants to limit scooter use in Japan to private land, which is not required to follow traffic laws. And company representatives are talking with regulators about easing other restrictions. They say Bolt scooters can reduce traffic, which can lead to lower emissions. Usain Bolt hopes his celebrity can help persuade lawmakers to his company’s message.

“We’re still talking and trying to figure out how to push forward and do better things for the environment, because that’s where it started,” he said in an interview with Reuters News Agency. “This is the future.”

Bolt Mobility aims to be in 20 cities worldwide by the end of 2019, and 50 cities across eight countries in 2020. Earlier this year, the company launched its scooters in New York, Paris and Washington.

E-scooter sharing has become popular for “last-mile” transit, but they have also created problems.

In San Francisco, riders often leave the vehicles on public walkways. Many people, including a city official, have called them a “public nuisance.”

Paris has amended rules on where scooters can be ridden following two deaths and several injuries. And in Singapore, a bicyclist died after being hit by an e-scooter in September.

In Tokyo, e-scooters are still rare. However there is a growing demand for making them more common.

At the Tokyo Motor Show this month, visitors tried electric scooters built by Japanese and foreign companies. The world’s largest e-scooter company, Lime, recently joined the Japanese interest group Micro Mobility Promotion Council.

Under current Japanese laws, e-scooters are treated as low-powered motorcycles. A change in regulation may take some time, even with the support of some Japanese government officials.

An official at Japan’s transportation ministry said, “Even though everyone says it’s very convenient,” safety has to be the top concern. The official did not permit use of his name because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Kevin Buckland reported this story for Reuters News Agency. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

medalist – n. a person who receives or wins a medal

scooter – n. a small vehicle with two wheels and a motor and that has a low seat and a flat area for resting your feet

license plate – n. a metal plate on a vehicle that shows a series of numbers and letters that are used to identify the vehicle

emissions – n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as pollution) from a source

nuisance – n. a person, thing, or situation that is annoying or that causes trouble or problems

convenient – adj. allowing you to do something easily or without trouble