State finally cracks down on scooters

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A majority in Parliament is ready to agree on a new law that will give local governments more power to regulate both the rental and use of electric scooters in Norway. They’re both loved and hated, but soon both scooter suppliers and users can be held responsible for the dangers they pose.

Here are some of the new scooters rolled out in Oslo earlier this spring, adding to the thousands already on the streets and sidewalks. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

City officials in Oslo, where the scooters seem to be everywhere, have been worrying about more “scooter chaos” this summer, not least after yet another profit-minded operator, Ryde, has been rolling out 3,000 more of them in recent weeks. Ryde is far from alone: Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reports that six international scooter suppliers have already made Oslo the city in Europe with the highest density of the electric scooters called elsparksykler in Norwegian.

They all have short names like Tier, Wind, Voi and Ryde. Many are painted in trendy shades of green, as if to project a climate-friendly image for micro-mobility. Oslo’s city government, in which the Greens party wields considerable power, champions emissions-free modes of transport and has carried out a controversial war against private cars. Even Greens politicians, however, have had to admit that the electric scooters litter streets and sidewalks and have caused serious accidents and injury.

The scooters thus present a dilemma for the Greens, whose head of environmental and transport in Oslo, Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, blames the state for the city’s failure to regulate them. “They are a positive addition to the city,” Berg told DN in April when Ryde, which is returning to the capital, started placing its scooters around town in addition to the thousands already on there. “But it’s a big problem that we don’t have any possibility for regulating the number of suppliers and therefore the total number of electric scooters in Oslo. I fear we will have a chaotic spring and summer.”

Winter wasn’t easy either, when lots of scooters were still scattered around the city and caused problems for snow-clearing crews. Users’ habit of simply leaving scooters in the middle of sidewalks and along streets forced snowplow drivers to stop and haul them out of the way.

New law rolling out
Scooter suppliers have long blamed careless users for such problems and now both users and suppliers will risk citations and fines if they don’t follow some new regulations. News bureau NTB reported this week that a majority in Parliament has agreed on a new law that will give munipalities the power to regulate rentals and therefore the sheer supply of scooters on the streets. Users will also need to park them in special zones and abide by new speed limits.

“There are many people who like these scooters and in that regard, they’ve been a success,” Karin Andersen, a Member of Parliament for the Socialist Left party (SV) told NTB, “but they’ve also created problems we can’t live with any longer, among other things high speed in areas where other people are walking.”

Andersen put forth the law proposal that already has support from SV, the Labour and Center parties, the Conservatives and the Christian Democrats. It also aims to end users’ practice of simply jumping and logging off the scooters they rented over their mobile phones and leaving them standing in the middle of sidewalks.

“That causes huge problems for those with vision problems and there are many people with baby carriages and in wheelchairs who can’t get around them,” Andersen told NTB.

Licensing looms
The new law will also let local governments charge fees to suppliers and operators to cover the costs of clearing away scooters or towing them in, and for use of public grounds like streets and sidewalks. Suppliers will thus need to obtain some form of licensing, which the cities have wanted since the scooters made their entry several years ago.

Oslo is planning to charge a fee of NOK 1,590 (nearly USD 200) for every scooter towed in, an expense suppliers are likely to pass on to users. The state is also warning of fines if scooters aren’t properly parked, limits of only one person on each scooter, establishment of designated areas where they can be operated and speed limits of just 6 kilometers an hour in areas where pedestrians are present.

Jan Bøhler, a former veteran of the Labour Party in Oslo who moved over to the Center Party, thinks the new law doesn’t go far enough. NTB reported Wednesday that he wants to ban the scooters from sidewalks entirely, arguing that would “end chaos in the cities, prevent accidents and give back a sense of security to many pedestrians.”

At least some operators responded postively to the new restrictions, including Voi and Tier, and hope police will be able to enforce the looming regulations. They’re not likely to be in force, however, until next year.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund