Officials in the central Norwegian city of Trondheim have become the first to respond to mounting concerns and complaints about electric kick scooters that have filled streets and sidewalks all over the country this summer. They’re prohibiting scooter rentals from September 1, until new safety regulations are in place.
“We haven’t had rules for this before, and this is the first opportunity we’ve had (after the summer holidays) to make any after one operator just started renting them out earlier this summer,” Geirmund Lykke, a city council member from the Christian Democrats party, told local newspaper Adresseavisen.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that a start-up company called Ryde Technology set out around 200 of the electric kick scooters that can be rented for set periods of time via a mobile phone app. Ryde Technology didn’t seek or need any permission from city officials to do so, but will now.
The scooters have become highly popular, also in Oslo where several operators have placed around 3,500 scooters on the streets. Oslo has no regulations for them either, but with complaints rising by the day, they soon may issue some.
‘We have to have a system for this’
In Trondheim, operators will now need to enter into an agreement with the city to rent them out, they’ll have to organize rentals better and provide permanent parking areas. Users will also need to park them in designated areas instead of just abandoning them when and where their ride ends. Trondheim also intends to put concessions to rent out the scooters up for bid.
“We can’t have hundreds of el-scooters left lying all over the sidewalks,” Ottar Michelsen, another Trondheim council member for the Socialist Left party (SV) told state broadcaster NRK. “We have to have a system for this. That’s why we want the scooters removed until we have a system in place.”
Trondheim’s ban was initially meant to take effect immediately, but because 22 Ryde Technology employees will lose their jobs, the city extended the ban until September 1. NRK reported that Ryde quickly started setting out scooters in the southern city of Kristiansand instead, where residents woke up Tuesday to around 100 green and black scooters placed around town.
Gro Solås, in charge of roads in Kristiansand, told NRK that she didn’t know Ryde Technology planned to establish itself. Ryde manager Johan Edward Olofsson claims it shouldn’t have come as any surprise, since Ryde sent an email to Kristiansand officials in February. Now they’re due to have a meeting with city officials.
In Oslo, the scooters now seem to be everywhere, with users finding them fun and useful as a climate-friendly means of transportation. A new study, however, claimed they’re less environmentally friendly than a normal diesel bus, while they also have a short life span of only a few months before wearing out.
Still others note how they litter the streets and have even been dumped into the fjord. Pedestrians, meanwhile, object mightily to the silent scooters that can creep up behind them and often are discarded in the middle of sidewalks, creating hazards especially for the blind and elderly.
Police have also complained but find it difficult to restrain reckless users. Many users have been seriously injured, with news bureau NTB reporting 337 injuries registered by both Oslo’s emergency hospital and Ullevål Hospital’s emergency room between April 1 and July 31. Three of those injured suffered serious head injuries while 18 suffered fractures.
Police did issue their first citation to a reckless scooter user in July, fining him NOK 1,200 for ignoring a red light. “The same rules for bicycles apply to scooters,” Finn Erik Grønli of the Oslo Police District told newspaper Aftenposten.
Calls are going out for regulation of scooter operators in Oslo as well. One commentator recently called the el-scooters “the worst thing that’s happened to public health in many years.” Pedestrians feel unsafe, wrote Bertil Valderhaug in Aftenposten, fearing the el-scooters even more than cyclists or motorists. Most of the operators don’t rent their scooters late at night, to curb partying Norwegians from using them while drunk, but some do. City officials in Oslo have claimed they’re listening to the complaints and following the public debate, but so far are only taking the issue under advisement.