Here to stay: the rise of e-scooters
Coming to study in the Netherlands from the Czech Republic, in all honesty the amount of things that shocked me was nothing too crazy. However, one aspect that I still find quite astonishing is the huge amount of e-scooters around the cities. More precisely, not only their large number, but that many people actually do use them. This convenience is definitely not something I experienced in my home country, where an e-scooter is one of the last modes of transportation you would think of taking if in need to get somewhere quickly. In fact, the thought of taking an e-scooter would most likely not even cross your mind.
E-scooters is an umbrella term which incorporates a few different modes of transportation, namely mopeds, kick scooters and self balancing scooters. The kind which I specifically have been referencing is a moped e-scooter; the majority of kick scooters have actually been banned on the roads in the Netherlands, along with some other countries enforcing the ban. However, in the majority of European countries, different kinds of e-scooters are gaining wider acceptance and their usage is becoming more accessible and simple. While the convenience benefits associated with e-scooters are more obvious, there are also multiple infrastructural and economic positives they can bring to cities.
Especially in larger cities, e-scooters are stimulating social and employment connections. They are considered to be micro mobility solutions to some of the greatest problems associated with urbanisation, such as overcrowding, pollution, and increasing pressure on public transport. For instance, recent studies from universities in the United States have reported that local economies experienced a large boost of estimated 13.8 million dollars of additional sales in food and beverage industries. Across cities with e-scooter programmes, total sales in the food and beverage industries have increased by 0.6% on average. This is associated with e-scooters making mobility from point A to point B much quicker and cost efficient, contributing to people being less reluctant to take an extra trip they may not have considered otherwise, due to timing or efficiency constraints. Reportedly, e-scooters have also been especially useful under Covid-19 conditions, when limited public transport and general fear of public settings has raised the use of single person modes of transportation.
Interestingly enough, some law enforcers had not predicted e-scooters to reach such high popularity and demand. At their beginnings, e-scooters around cities were considered an attraction mainly for fun, or even for tourists as an unsaid rule. However, recent statistics make it crystal clear that e-scooters are by far not just a fun attraction anymore, but an essential mode of transportation some chose to rely on. One of the biggest e-scooter providers, Tier, has reported that its users have been doubling every year, while the amount of trips taken has quadrupled in 2022.
Nevertheless, if e-scooter sharing platforms were this groundbreaking, they would be widely accepted in all larger cities. So, why is this by far not the case yet? Why are some countries actually considering moving away from legalising all e-scooters and heavily limiting their use? This question has multiple answers to it, some of which are more complicated than others.
Perhaps the main reason is the safety concerns associated with the use of e-scooters. E-scooters riders consistently sustain more injuries, per mile, than bike riders. Majority of these injuries are associated with not abiding by general traffic rules, due to the fact that they are significantly easier to bypass when on an e-scooter. They enable riders to drive in narrow spaces and spaces where the use of vehicles is prohibited, such as sidewalks. This problem in itself is, on the other hand, not due to riders seeking higher risk, but due to the lack of infrastructure to accommodate a high influx of e-scooter riders on roads. It is therefore predicted that in the near future, more cities will choose to centre their infrastructure around vehicles such as scooters or bicycles, rather than simply accommodating automobiles. Paris, Milan, Seville, Berlin and London are some of the major European cities which have pledged to become more bike friendly and decrease car traffic in favour of electric vehicles.
These promises point towards one takeaway - e-scooters and e-sharing vehicles are here to stay and are not a temporary attraction. With numerous promises and targets of creating cleaner and more accessible cities, e-sharing vehicles are one of the most prominent solutions offered on the market. And while few cities fully support their usage and make it hassle free to travel, it seems that new infrastructure projects will have to accommodate e-vehicles, rather than the other way around.