El-scooter operators vow to end chaos

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Six operators of the highly controversial electric scooters in Oslo have promised to work together to address issues that have made the scooters a nuisance on city streets. Street patrols, lower speeds, a campaign to get users to be more considerate, and better parking facilities are among measures discussed at a meeting with Transport Minister Knut Arild Hareide on Friday.

Street patrols coordinated by the various el-scooter operators are being set up to try to gain control over some of the scooter chaos in Oslo. PHOTO: Lime

“It’s good that the branch itself is taking responsibility,” Hareide said after the meeting with representatives of operators Voi, Tier, Bolt, Bird, Lime and Wind.

City politicians all over Norway have been asking Hareide to get some tougher national laws on the books that could allow them to regulate the burgeoning scooter business. The cities of Bergen and Trondheim have already lost court cases against local operators over issues including efforts to require bidding for operating licenses and, in Bergen, one operator’s refusal to seek permission to use the city’s streets. There are at present no such laws that allow the cities to enforce any such regulation.

Hareide met with local politicians earlier this week but said it will “take time” to get new laws on the books or amend existing ones. The operators, meanwhile, have been subject to so much criticism and pressure from politicians and their constituents that they’re finally joining forces to “improve safety and order,” as operator Lime put it, at least on the streets of Oslo.

“For Lime, it’s a top priority to be a reliable partner with the municipality,” Konstantin Morenko, operations manager for Lime in Oslo, stated in a press release on Friday. “We support regulations that will go hand-in-hand with changes in the city’s infrastructure.”

This is the message set to greet users of one operator’s el-scooters in Oslo. The Norwegian text reads: “Avoid drunk driving. Driving while intoxicated is both dangerous and illegal. Are you in a condition to drive?” At which point, the renter will need to answer “yes” or “no.” PHOTO: Lime

The operators agreed on various measures and initiatives such as a joint street patrol that will ensure removal of “incorrectly parked electric scoots,” establishment of low-speed and no-parking zones and messages to users when they first open the apps that allow them to rent the scooters. Since most accidents occur late at night, and often involve intoxicated users, the app will open with the message: “Don’t drink. But ride.”

Operator Tier was among those unwilling to go along with a proposal to simply make the scooters inoperable late at night. Tier manager Lars Christian Grødem-Olsen told news bureau NTB that many customers, for example, want to use el-scooters to get home after working late shifts. “We understand that emergency room doctors are worried (about all the injuries),” Grødem-Olsen said. “Safety is our first priority and the law is crystal clear that driving, or riding a bike or scooter is illegal when you’re intoxicated. If the user doesn’t respect that, it’s a matter for the police.”

Tier, Lime and the other operators, also in Bergen, do agree on addressing the parking problems, limiting the numbers of scooters in certain areas and making sure the scooters are in good working order. Lime also intends to promote 10 rules for riding, such as use of helmets, only one person on each scooter, low speeds on sidewalks and pedestrian streets, compliance with traffic regulations, no drunk driving and leaving a scooter parked only at a designated area or up against a wall – never in the middle of a sidewalk where they obstruct foot- and bicycle traffic.

Critics of the scooters remain skeptical. Stein Leikanger, who launched a Facebook group demanding the ability to “take our sidewalks back,” told newspaper Dagsavisen on Friday that “thinking the market would regulate itself is a bad idea.” He’s also skeptical whether Hareide will be able to “clean up the chaotic conditions in Oslo.” Leikanger wants to have the scooters banned from sidewalks like they are in Paris, where police can hand out citations and fine scooter-renters EUR 135 if they’re caught on the sidewalk.

Leikanger acknowledges that it’s most important that scooter-renters straighten up and ride right: “Folks have lost sight of society as a whole and only think about their own needs,” he told Dagsavisen. “When you see how they park these el-scooters in the middle of a sidewalk, blocking others’ paths, there’s no doubt their brains are disconnected.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund