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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

El-scooters overrun summer in the city

They seem to be everywhere again, rolling out of control in Norwegian cities and then literally being dumped on sidewalks, in parks and even in people’s yards. Local politicians are being accused of shirking responsibility for regulating the popular electric scooters as complaints rise.

Electric scooters are both loved and hated, and are setting off more calls for more regulation of them. PHOTO: Møst

Now even one of the biggest players in Oslo, Voi, is complaining about a lack of rules as more rivals enter the market. Christina Moe Gjerde, who runs Voi’s operations in Norway and Finland, claims the capital is “overrun” by the scooters.

“The politicians aren’t keeping up with the rapid developments we’re seeing now, and all the negative reaction could have been avoided,” Gjerde told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week. “Responsible operators have been asking for regulations and some sense of order for the past 15 months, but the bureaucrats are left to themselves without any sufficient political mandate. We lack political leadership and an ability to act.”

Voi has 300,000 registered users in Oslo alone and its scooters have been used more than 2.2 million times. Now they’ve been joined by a rash of other scooter-providers named Tier, Lime, Bird and, most recently, Bolt, and the competition among them has set off price-dumping. Users rent the scooters by downloading an app onto their mobile phones, paying a starter’s fee and then a rate by the minute. The scooters can be picked up wherever they’re found (usually where the last user left one), can reach speeds of 20 kilometers per hour (12mph) and then be left at the user’s destination, at which point the user logs off and the fee charges stop.

Here’s how the scooters often wind up, dumped on sidewalks and posing a hazard for pedestrians. Those with impaired vision have complained the loudest, not least because the electric scooters don’t make any noise and can’t be heard by those who also can’t see. PHOTO: Møst

DN reported on Tuesday that newcomer Bolt has now dropped its start-up fee of just NOK 5 (around 60 US cents) and cut its price-per-minute from NOK 2.50 to NOK 1. Gjerde accuses Bolt of trying get as many “downloads” as possible before the firm also introduces new taxi service in Oslo this fall. Bolt’s regional chief told DN the company just “wants to offer the best value in the market.”

While teenagers and young adults seem to love the scooters, many older residents and especially those with vision problems think they’re a nuisance. They also pose a hazard when often left parked in the middle of sidewalks and other unexpected places, and obstruct pedestrians. Many users have fun on them, swerving down sidewalks and streets at top speed, and even through crowded bus- and tram stops. Users need no licenses of any sort and police face challenges stopping those who are intoxicated. There have been numerous cases of collisions and physical injury involving the scooters.

Trondheim sets an example
Trondheim has come the farthest in regulating scooter use after complaints began as soon the scooters were introduced in Norway. Trondheim officials have set a top speed limit of 5kmt and regulate the number of local operators. They’re also demanding so-called “digital fencing” that can better control where the scooters will be operable.

City officials in Bergen are being called upon to crack down, too, after 500 more scooters suddenly turned up in the downtown area earlier this month. On Tuesday, city crews were out collecting at least those that were found obstructing sidewalkds. Stavanger has approved some regulations, but Oslo has been slow to do so.

Arild Hermstad of the Greens Party, the top city politician in charge of environmental and transport issues, has claimed the city doesn’t want the scooters to pose “dangerous situations” and is working on “clear guidelines for all operators,” along with designated parking areas. The proposed measures are mostly in a preliminary stage, though, and Hermstad is calling on the state to impose national guidelines.

“Now the transport minister must clean up the el-scooter chaos,” Hermstad said, blaming former state government officials in the Progress Party for ushering in the scooters in the first place. “We need the government to give us the possibility to regulate these scooters so there won’t be more traffic chaos and accidents.”

Transport Minister Knut Arild Hareide told state broadcaster NRK on Tuesday that he will look into tightening regulations that already exist against parking where pedestrians walk. He will also study who needs to enforce those rules, along with various forms of reaction against violators. Berglund



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