15 Nov 18

The war on scooters

Reducing traffic congestion and air pollution at the same time, you could have expected shared e-scooters to have been embraced by city authorities, but the opposite happened. 

The booming business of shared e-scooters

The increasing number of shared e-scooters created a certain backlash, which has in some cities even been answered with the (temporary) removal of the scooters, others have put additional legislation into place. 

Forgiveness, not permission

Most of the scooter sharing companies came overnight, without even asking the city’s permission. Companies like Bird and Lime used the ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission’ strategy rather than cooperating with cities. As a result, the sudden overload of them, and the complaints of citizens, resulted in a pushback by several city authorities. 

That's why Ford claims to have chosen to acquire the scooter sharing company Spin rather than any other company, as Spin has a clear engagement with each of the 13 cities where it operates in the US. They claim to ask for permission, share data, and even cooperate with the local authorities to design educational tools around parking and riding. And hence, they avoid the situation Bird and Lime ended up in in San Francisco.

Scooter ban

In San Francisco, scooter companies were asked to remove their scooters from the streets, if they were not in the possession of a specific permit. At that time, none of the companies had one. As a result, all scooter start-ups were forced off the streets by the city transportation agency in June 2018 

The companies could apply for a permit but only 2 received a 12-month operating permit; moreover, the selected start-ups received the exclusive right to operate e-scooters in the streets because they were the only ones not to have operated without permission previously. 

Lime and Bird remain grounded in San Francisco, which even made Lime sue the city over its decision to reject its permit application. Both companies stopped operations as well in Austin, Texas; and Bird has been banned in other US cities as well. 

New mobility, new rules

Often, the severe reaction regarding scooter companies is explained by the city’s unprepared approach towards prior mobility disruptors as ride hailing and bike sharing companies who challenged the city’s traffic flow and safety. Since cities have the authority to write the rules of the road, many of them will now prefer to regulate new mobility services when they are being introduced onto their streets. This is already happening in a growing number of cities that regulate ride hailing services, such as the recent ride hailing cap introduced in New York City. 

Safety first

Safety is one of the main concerns of cities, not only of the other road users, but of the scooter riders as well. Wearing a helmet could be a solution, and in some US cities it is even required by law. In order to comply with this legislation, many scooter companies provide free helmets or offer discounted helmets. 

The scooters are alsovsupposed to ride on the bicycle lanes, rather than on sidewalks; and some cities are even setting up dedicated parking spaces for the scooters, while scooter companies provide parking guidelines. All of these must prevent the scooters from hindering the pedestrians. 

Authored by: Fien Van den steen