Cities typically have three different choices when it comes to regulating electric scooters. Either a monopoly, aggregator, or a platform.
In early July, LA-based e-scooter sharing startup Bird revealed it will be setting up a European hub in Paris, in addition to its planned expansion into 50 other European cities this year. Meanwhile, well over €300m has been invested into new European e-scooter startups, including Voi, Wind and Circ. With an estimated 20,000 scooters already on the streets of Paris alone, the face of urban mobility in Europe is undergoing a dramatic transformation.
The arrival of electric scooters is, in many ways, good news. The European Environment Agency’s 2018 ‘Air quality in Europe’ report found that most European city-dwellers still suffer from pollution levels above the World Health Organisation’s recommendations for the protection of health. Countries will need to take drastic measures if they want to lower carbon emissions. This will likely require a two-fold strategy of, firstly, shifting towards the use of electric transport and, secondly, moving citizens out of private cars and into forms of shared or pooled mobility.
However, the sudden influx of e-scooters has also drawn attention to a fresh challenge facing European cities. In fact, scooters have faced backlash from local authorities and citizens alike. There are widespread fears that we will see a poorly-regulated wave of scooters plastering the streets, echoing what we saw with shared bike offerings a few years ago. There are also ongoing concerns around the safety implications presented by e-scooters – after reports of vehicle malfunctions, companies are facing more regulatory pushback, presenting a barrier to widespread adoption. Countries like France and Germany have either created, or are in the process of creating, a new vehicle class for PLEVs (“personal light electric vehicles”), leaving the task of regulating these new private players largely up to local authorities.
Faced with mounting pressure to meet EU climate targets and an influx of venture capital being channelled into mobility startups, local authorities are realising the need to collaborate with private players if they want to accelerate the move towards carbon-neutral urban transport.
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