September 24, 2021

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E-scooters in cities: fun to drive or a garbage problem?

Status: 07/25/2021 5:26 AM

Even two years after its introduction, e-scooters have a different opinion. Some find it practical, others find it in the way. Vandalism is a growing problem.

Von Melissa Guerlain, WDR

In broad daylight, a young man in a hoodie stands on a bridge. The river is below. He holds a green and white e-scooter in both hands. His friend holds a cell phone. Laughter, glance at the camera, the electric scooter flies over the bridge barrier and loudly into the river.

Vandalism and accidents damage reputation

In this way, several hundred e-scooters may have sunk in the Rhine. They have been there for several months. The recovery date is set for the beginning of September. These rescues should be carried out regularly in the future. The city and the lender agreed on this. The lenders will bear the costs of the rescue themselves. It is not yet clear how high it is.

This vandalism and the growing number of accidents has led Cologne Mayor Henriette Reeker to issue an ultimatum: either e-scooter rental companies will abide by a voluntary night driving ban, or they are threatening removal from Germany’s fourth-largest city. Distributors responded with no. Via the Platform Shared Mobility Association, they have spoken out clearly against the night driving ban. This action is a snapshot and will penalize the vast majority of inconspicuous users.

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Business is still going well for both Tier and scooter rental company Lime. Lime is “very satisfied” with the use of the scooter and, according to her own information, has already invested Tier in order to expand the range next year. Just last year, the company secured another $250 million funding round.

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“For most e-scooter rental companies, investors are currently the only way to fund their growth,” says Friedman Bruckmere. He worked on e-scooters early in 2019 on a data project for consultancy firm Civity. At the time the predictions were: “E-scooters are the hype.” Moreover: “In general, media presence as well as interest in ministries and municipalities seems a little exaggerated.”

Just standing in traffic

Traffic expert Tobias Kuhnimhof from RWTH Aachen University sees it similarly. For him, scooters occupy a special place in city traffic. E-scooters along with public transportation should offer an alternative to many cars in cities. “That hasn’t been compensated yet,” Konnemhof says. Of the kilometers traveled in Germany, less than one percent will be covered by a shared car – including bike and car sharing. The sheer presence in the inner cities is deceptive. “This leads to a certain amount of overestimation of this phenomenon,” Konnemhof says.

Among the reasons, from his point of view: high costs. While a kilometer on a scooter costs between 1 and 1.50 euros on average, public transportation costs 10 to 12 cents. “Given these pricing terms, it seems hard to imagine that someone would travel a longer distance by scooter to the train station.” According to Könimhof, scooters are mainly used for “adventure trips”. The use of animal records increased during rush hour.

Transportation to the bus station?

If you leave the car behind and take the scooter to work, you will have to pay more. At the same time, according to the Federal Environment Agency, this is actually the most environmentally friendly solution. Using a scooter instead of walking is not the case. Service providers put a lot of work into their environmentally friendly outdoor image. Animals in particular proclaim climate neutrality. According to rental companies, the average lifespan of an animal scooter is 36 months, and Lime states it is 24 months. Decommissioned scooters will be disassembled, parts still usable for repair and the rest will be recycled. Emissions that cannot be reduced in the course of production will be offset by compensation payments.

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However, according to the Federal Environment Agency, it is not currently possible to make this production process completely climate neutral. From an authority standpoint, the much greater potential of e-scooters is to enable car-free transportation to the front door. Therefore, it makes sense to make them available at bus or S-Bahn stations. However, scooters are currently in hot spots downtown. According to traffic expert Kuhnimhof, restrictions such as a night driving ban or a parking ban in certain areas can make it difficult for scooter distributors to establish a permanent presence.