Oslo to charge for its el-scooter ‘litter’

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The city of Oslo is set to impose a new high fee on electric scooters that are littering the winter streets, and making it more difficult for expensive snowplow crews to clear both streets and sidewalks. Those renting the popular scooters are also being warned that their insurance won’t apply in case of accidents.

Pedestrians have to dodge an el-scooter left outside a store here in the Briskeby neighbourhood of Oslo. Snowplow crews have been forced to interrupt their work to clear the scooters out of their way all winter. PHOTO: NewsInEnglish.no/Morten Møst

“It’s just keeps getting worse and worse,” Anders Backe of Hadeland Maskindrift, which has a contract to clear away snow in Oslo, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) this week. Despite attempts to set up designated parking areas for the scooters, users often still hop off and just leave them in the middle of sidewalks.

Pedestrians have complained for years about the hazards the el-scooters pose. Now they’ve become a nuisance for the snowplow operators who continually have to interrupt their work to stop and move the scooters out of their way. It thus takes them much more time to make their rounds and the scooters are heavy, meaning a lot of extra manual work is involved, too.

This is the first winter that several operators left their scooters out and available for hire, instead of gathering them up for use only in the spring, summer and fall. “There are so many more scooter operators, too, so there’s a lot more scooters out there that get in our way,” Backe told NRK. “It really delays us.” Arne Christian Sandsengen, controller at Hadeland Maskindrift, confirmed that the electric scooters (called sparkesykler in Norwegian) cause problems for street-cleaning crews in the summer and now the snowplows in winter.

Fiders often just hop off their rented scooters and walk away. Now they face new fees. PHOTO: NewsInEnglish.no/Morten Møst

Now city officials are responding by issuing “towing fees” of NOK 1,590 (USD 189) per scooter to the operators renting them out. “They’re a hindrance to accessibility in general,” Richard Kongsteien of the city agency in charge, Bymiljøetaten. The politician in charge, who has long promoted use of bicycles and scooters instead of cars in Oslo, noted that it’s costing lots of time and money to clean up after errant users dump the scooters around town.

“Charging a fee for the clean-up work is both reasonable and fair when the commercial operators are earning lots of money using the city streets and sidewalks,” Lan Marie Berg of the Greens Party told NRK. Bergen recently began charging to gather up the scooters, too, and Trondheim is considering the same

At least one of the operators told NRK the fines are likely to be passed on to users. Christina Moe Gjerde of scooter firm Voi said it’s considering blocking users who dump scooters around town from being able to rent them again. “We will also evaluate whether we send the fee on to the users,” Gjerde said. “On behalf of the branch I encourage users to show better parking consideration.”

Insurance can be invalid
City officials claim they have “a good dialogue” with scooter operators. One of them, Tier Mobility, blamed city officials for failing to issue any regulations for how the el-scooters should be used in winter.

A law professor, meanwhile, warns that scooter users can’t rely on their automobile insurance to help cover the costs of injuring pedestrians or others while out riding. A woman was badly injured last autumn when a scooter rider crashed into her while she was crossing an Oslo street. The man who hit her was sentenced to prison and has reached an out-of-court settlement with the woman he hit.

“If you’re really unlucky and collide with someone who’s left with lasting injuries, you may have to pay millions in compensation,” Professor Birgitte Hagland at the University of Oslo told NRK. “A ride on an el-scooter can put you in debt for the rest of your life.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund