Smart Cruising in the City?
E-scooters have been part of our street picture for a year. For some a thorn in the side, for others a long-awaited traffic relief. Time to draw a balance.
Praised as a sustainable last-mile solution, e-scooters have been silently rolling down roads since June 2019. Some see them as a smart alternative to relieve crowded cities from traffic and pollutants. Others are annoyed by drunks who pair up at night and rush by in serpentines or leave their scooters carelessly on the sidewalk.
Despite all the controversy, business with rental scooters seems to be profitable. Admittedly, there were massive financial losses due to the Corona lockdowns. Many rental companies had to cease operations on short notice, although the season had just started. On the other hand, e-scooter rental companies such as Bird have recently collected 275 million US dollars to further expand their fleets. Competitor Lime announced that it was no longer making losses in its core business in Germany. Alongside newcomers Dott from the Netherlands or Hive from Ireland, the US American company Spin is also entering the e-scooter business. The Ford subsidiary now rents out its two-wheelers in Cologne, Bonn, Essen, Dortmund, and Herne – even in suburban areas. This means that ten different brands now share the German market.
Paris regulates the market
A look across the border reveals that e-scooters aren’t allowed everywhere. In the Netherlands, for example, they’re treated similarly to mopeds and require a driver’s seat for registration. Singapore, Milan, and Paris have banned scooters from sidewalks because the risk of injury for pedestrians is too high. The US metropolis Atlanta, meanwhile, has banned e-scooters from driving at night. On the other hand, cities such as Paris are simultaneously regulating the market. Before lockdown, around 20,000 e-scooters rolled through the metropolis – the largest market in all of Europe. Since there was also a lot of trouble with the drivers, the city now determines access to the market. As many as 16 suppliers applied for licenses – but only three were awarded the contract. Dott, Lime, and Tier are allowed to offer their services with up to 5,000 e-scooters starting in September. In addition, the city will provide around 2,500 parking spaces for e-scooters.
E-scooter accident statistics
Before the approval of e-scooters in Germany, there were horror reports about accidents from other countries. Doctors already feared the worst, if inexperienced tourists were to drive around pedestrians like slalom poles. The Federal Statistical Office has now published accident statistics for e-scooters for the first quarter of 2020.
A total of 251 accidents involving miniature electric vehicles, which include e-scooters, were registered. There were 182 minor injuries, 39 serious injuries, and one death. During the same period, the police recorded over 12,700 accidents involving cyclists. However, the picture is somewhat distorted – after all, more people in Germany ride a bicycle than use an e-scooter.
The low figures are still surprising. This is exactly where the new DEKRA Micro Mobility Standard comes into play, which was developed in cooperation with an e-scooter supplier. It’s intended to ensure even greater safety and sustainability of e-scooters. Target groups for the expert services are e-scooter rental companies, but also cities with rental systems. The standard looks at mobility services being tested from all angles. This includes technology, production, maintenance, and recycling.