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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Electric kick scooter kicks up a fuss

Suddenly it seems like they’re everywhere in Oslo. Along with the arrival of spring has come a wave of new elsparksykler (electric kick scooters), and they’re not entirely welcome.

Electric kick scooters are suddenly competing with pedestrians on Oslo’s streets and sidewalks, like here in front of the Parliament on Thursday. There already have been several accidents just weeks after their introduction. PHOTO:

Several blind people have already been mowed down by careless operators, while others have tripped over those left parked in the middle of city sidewalks. Norway’s national association for the blind (Blindeforbundet) told Radio Norge this week that they’re now demanding that city officials in turn demand that those riding them follow traffic rules.

Others are complaining that users who rent the silent kick scooters drive them too fast, weave in and out among pedestrians walking along sidewalks and ignore traffic rules, and then leave the scooters scattered around town. In Copenhagen, they’ve become an environmental problem instead of an asset.

“This is a new phenomenon,” Lan Marie Berg of the Greens Party told state broadcaster NRK. “If it’s true that the kick scooters are causing big problems they’ll have to be regulated more strictly than they are today. We’ll be following how this develops.”

In addition to accidents, complaints have arisen over how the scooters can be left right in the middle of a sidewalk, like here on Oslo’s Karl Johans Gate. PHOTO:

Berg is in charge of transport issues in Oslo and has long promoted cycling and the use of zero-emission electric vehicles. She admits the city wasn’t prepared for all the complaints pouring in, especially those from the association for the blind. Since the electric scooters can’t be heard, the blind aren’t aware of their presence. Some have also tripped over scooters parked where they’re least expected, like in the middle of sidewalks.

The new electric kick scooters have been placed around town by two companies that rent them out. News bureau NTB reported that one of the companies, VOI, is sorry about the complaints and planned to meet Thursday with the association for the blind to discuss the problems.

City officials already have established guidelines for their use and where they can be parked. It’s ultimately up to each individual user to follow the rules, and for police to enforce them. The scooters are categorized as bicycles, which implies they can be operated at speeds no faster than 20 kilometers an hour (12mph), and not faster than pedestrians can walk if used on sidewalks. Their use is also restricted to the city, and users aren’t allowed to take them into the hills known as marka, for fear they’l be discarded when their batteries run out.

The challenge is that another nine companies have applied for permits to rent them out, meaning that thousands more electric kick scooters may soon hit the streets and sidewalks of Oslo. Berg said she had taken up the complaints with the police, claiming that “it’s import for us (city official) that everyone can move safely around Oslo.”

Asked her opinion of the scooters, she said she thinks they’re “an exciting addition to mobility in Oslo. At the same time I’m worried about the many problems that have arisen. That’s why we’ll be following developments.” Berglund



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