Stockholm crackdown on ‘chaotic’ e-scooters – POLITICO
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STOCKHOLM — Voi, Sweden’s billion-dollar electric scooter pioneer, has a new political minefield to navigate — in its hometown.
Stockholm lawmakers have said that by February 1 the number of e-scooters in the city must be halved from around 23,000 to 12,000 and split evenly among eight operators – including Voi – meaning that each company can rent a maximum of 1,500 machines. Voi said there were 6,209 scooters in the city of 1.5 million last summer.
The crackdown on the number of e-scooters is the latest step in an uneven Europe-wide trend that has seen the urban decision-makers who originally embraced them partially reverse course.
In 2020, Paris To cut the number of operators to three and the number of scooters to 15,000, and at the end of 2021 it reduced speed limits in some central areas. Copenhagen banned electric scooters in 2020 before allowing them to return last fall under stricter rules, particularly on parking.
Stockholm Vice Mayor for Traffic Daniel Helldén, who has pushed for fewer electric scooters in his city, said residents are tired of sidewalks blocked by abandoned two-wheelers.
“The situation has become too chaotic”, Helldhe said. “Last summer we had places you couldn’t get to where you were going… Stockholmers couldn’t accept the mess.”
A recent survey of 1,380 Stockholm residents showed 57% were negative about electric scooters compared to 50% a year earlier.
From next month, e-scooter operators in Stockholm – which will also include American Lime and Bird, German Tier and Dutch rival Dott – will also have to follow new parking rules. If they don’t, they could be banned from the city after a review of their performance in July.
A Voi spokeswoman, Kristina Nilsson, said such a drastic reduction in the number of scooters in the city “won’t be ideal for the customer experience” as it could make it harder for people to find a machine and they might need to download eight apps to make sure they can access the one they find.
Still, she said Voi intended to “get her own way.”
“We will do everything we can to make things work, so that the people of Stockholm are happy with us,” Nilsson said. “Stockholm is our territory, so of course it’s important.”
Voi launched its e-scooters on the streets of Stockholm in 2018 around the same time early players like Lime were transplanting their US-developed pay-per-ride model to their first European market in Paris.
Over the next year, cities that allowed e-scooters saw an explosion of operators and, along with a surge in rides, an increase in problems.
In addition to complaints about blocked sidewalks, citizens from Oslo to Marseille have objected to battered machines being dumped in waterways and the perceived short lifespan of early model scooters.
A series of accidents, including the death of a tourist in Paris after being hit by a scooter, further damaged the reputation of electric scooters and accelerated the political decision.
In Stockholm, the regime has so far been relatively lax. On a recent weekday in the city’s historic Old Town, three electric scooters were seen thrown into a snowdrift and one partially blocked a wheelchair ramp to a public building.
Yet, following recent statements about the upcoming crackdown from City Hall, repair work is underway. Along the waterfront, a figure could be seen picking up scooters and making sure they weren’t blocking walkways or bike lanes.
Voi’s Nilsson said his company wanted to be “part of the solution” when it came to parking and had partnered with peers to install supports.
She welcomed a plan recently proposed by Vice Mayor Helldén to launch a tendering process next January that would likely award concessions to operate electric scooters in the city to fewer operators, which should mean that each can deploy more scooters.
When a similar model was rolled out in Paris, Voi lost to Lime, Tier and Dott, but Nilsson said Voi had a strong track record of winning tenders across Europe and would be in good shape. position in his hometown.
“It’s a risk, but overall we think the industry wins by taking an orderly approach,” she said.
Not everyone agrees with the Stockholm plan. Four scooter operators – not including Voi – complained to the Swedish Administrative Court when Helldén first proposed the idea of reducing the number of scooters in November. They argued that the legal foundations for such a decision were shaky.
The case remains open, but the city council will apply the new regime from February 1 regardless, Helldhe said.
Municipal decision-makers across Europe will likely watch developments in the Swedish capital with interest as they chart their own course.
Investors will also be keeping an eye on things.
Voi and his peers have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in funding over the past three years and are now striving to turn a profit. Voi’s most recent funding round was equivalent to a company valuation of over $1 billion.
Despite early problems, Helldén said he believes that with the right policy regime, electric scooters can have a bright future in Stockholm and other cities.
“For many people, electric scooters make their daily lives more efficient,” he said. “So they have a function and people are using them, but the trick is to make sure they don’t get in the way of people who aren’t using them.”
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