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New city government wants more electric scooter use in Oslo

After years of accidents and complaints sparked tighter regulation of electric scooters, Oslo’s new Conservatives-led city government now wants more of them, along with some deregulation. That’s bound to spark more angry public debate.

Abandoned el-scooters on a downtown street in Oslo in July 2021. PHOTO: Berglund

They’re called elsparkesyklene in Norwegian, a name that’s often blamed for allowing them to be operated much like sykler (bicycles). There were few rules and regulations around them, and it didn’t take long for as many as 20,000 to be silently zipping around the city, often on sidewalks and often at high speed. That frightened pedestrians and led to many accidents, some of them fatal. Doctors at Oslo’s emergency hospital rang the alarms in the summer of 2021, reporting they were overwhelmed by the hundreds of injuries they had treated as a result of reckless scooter operation.

When the scooter chaos also resulted in widespread public outcry, the city cracked down, cutting their numbers to 8,000 and banning their use from 11pm until 5am, when many of their drivers were found to be intoxicated. Those owning the scooters and renting them out were also ordered to collect abandoned scooters and place them at designated parking areas.

Now the ban on nighttime use may be dropped. Oslo’s city government is also proposing measures to remove any limits on the numbers of scooters outside the city center and allow them once again to be used all night.

Marit Vea of the Liberal Party (Venstre) wants more use of electric scooters in Oslo. PHOTO: Venstre

“We think the electric scooters are an important supplement to walking, cycling and public transport,” Marit Vea, in charge of transport issues, told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. “We (her non-socialist Liberal Party and the Conservative Party) think they’ll get more people to stop using their cars.”

Vea also cited an alleged need “to make micromobility more accessible in the outer city, for example (the outlying district of) Groruddalen.” Her plan calls for more coordination between scooter operators and the public transport operator Ruter, and she claims the “sidewalk chaos” that erupted in the inner city isn’t as big a problem outside downtown. Aftenposten reported that the number of scooters allowed in the downtown area would not be raised.

The proposals are being sent out to hearing over the next eight weeks. Reaction may be lively, also from the medical community and others who still see lots of reckless el-scooter use downtown. Just this week a young man was spotted riding a scooter at high speed alongside pedestrians heading into a KIWI grocery store near Oslo’s busy Solli Plass. He even rode his scooter right into the store, grabbed a package of toilet paper and rode out again without paying.

Another man riding a scooter in Bergen this week collided with one of the city’s trams and was killed. Scooter use often declines during the winter, which was unusually cold this year with lots of snow and ice that made streets and sidewalks slippery, but they’re back in force this spring.

“We still need to work a bit with (drivers’) attitudes,” Vea told Aftenposten. She admitted that there’s still a lot of thoughtless parking and “a lack of consideration” when operating scooters on sidewalks. “My advice to both cyclists, motorists and el-scooter operators is to show some consideration for one another,” Vea said. Berglund



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