escooters take over the streets

Did you try an e-scooter yet? If not you are probably in a minority by now. E-scooters have taken over not just Frankfurt but many German cities. A few weeks ago the law changed in Germany making e-scooters legal on roads and bike lanes. They are also permitted on pavements at a reduced speed. Clearly there were people ready and waiting for the change because the city is now taken over. Frankfurt issued 5 licences for e-scooter companies and so far 3 companies have made a bid for dominance.

This all feels a bit like deja-vu with the bike sharing initiative. First the licences were issued. Then there was chaos as bikes were left piling up on every street corner. Then competition started to bite as the losing providers withdrew their bikes again and we were left with just DB bikes, Next and Byke.

First came the company Tier with their greeny-blue scooters. They were first movers and the clear winners already in Franfurt with over 800 distributed. The company started with Germany-only at the beginning but is branching out into France, Spain and Scandinavia. When you download the app, use the generic ‘START’ promo code to get 2 free rides. It costs €1 to unlock a scooter and €0.15 for each minute of use.

Second up is Circ with their orange design. There are a lot less Circ scooters around but although they are based out of Berlin, they are already active across a range of European cities. And if you want to see how agressive their expansion plan is, just take a look at the hundreds of job vacancies they have listed across Europe. They are pretty much targeting every city and medium sized town in Germany so this could be a good app to have if you want to use scooters when you travel. Pricing is almost the same as Tier with €1 to unlock and €0.20 for each minute of use.

The newest is Lime but I’ve only seen a handful of these around the city. They are available all over the world, originally from the US, but just like their Lime bikes,  I suspect they will be the first to disappear from Frankfurt! Too late to the party…

Problems…

It didn’t take long for the complaints to erupt on social media and then head to the mainstream media. And its easy to see why. Although the apps try to educate users on how to ride safely, they are failing miserably. No one is wearing a helmet, there are regularly two riders on a scooter (couples seem to think romance is more important than safety), and bad scooter drivers are a nightmare for cars. At least cyclists have basic training and can signal. Scooter riders are all over the place. Unfortunately it is only a matter of time before there is a serious accident. Even the police have admitted that the roll out didn’t go well…

The main trouble is that Frankfurt just isn’t designed for e-scooters. The city is barely able to handle bikes! Should bikes be on the road or the pavement, we don’t know, let’s do both…! And to make things more complicated, e-scooters are blocked by from going in pedestrian areas such as along the river or along Zeil. This is a good idea and well executed (you engine simply stops working) but in pushes scooters onto the roads around these areas to harrass car drivers.

There are also rumours about problems with the batteries lasting for only 6 months before needing to be replaced. On the scale that they have been rolled out this is going to be a big environmental issue.

E-Scooters are definitely here to stay though partly because they are super fun and very practical.

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