Green light for eScooter in Germany. Micromobility is spreading in large European cities,

Electric scooters, ebikes, epedal scooters, monowheels, hoverboards, segways, but also multi-lane small vehicles are so-called micromobiles, which are becoming increasingly present in European city centres.

While eScooter are already part of the street scene in EU countries, since 2018, their development in Germany has stalled. Since the 15th of June 2019 however, eScooters (also known as “eTretroller” in Germany) are now allowed to drive on German public roads when the “Elektrokleinstfahrzeuge-Verordnung” (eKFV) came into force.

The vehicles can be described as light, quiet and environmentally friendly. According to the enthusiastic ideas of private providers, eScooter and other micromobiles are the ideal means of transport for short distances in urban areas and they are also the "last mile" solution for intermodal transport.

In Germany private providers, most of whom are already active abroad, eagerly awaited vehicle approval from the Federal Motor Vehicle Authority. In many places several providers compete with one another, among them the citizen of Berlin Start-ups “Tier Mobility”, the Stockholm enterprise “Voi” as well as the Californian companies “Bird” and “Lime”.

Some larger cities fear that micromobiles will cause similar chaos on sidewalks, in parks and green areas that were observed in the recent past due to free-floating bicycles.


What cities already do to handle micromobility

To ensure that the offered services function properly, a uniform legal framework must be created in Europe for all forms of micromobility. The issue of safety must also be given greater attention by the suppliers. Some cities have already formed agreements with suppliers regarding  the use of eScooters, which could also be applied to other micromobiles.

In Paris for example, eScooter-sharing has been in place for one year. Currently there are about 20,000 eScooters in use, and by the end of 2019 the number is expected to increase to 40,000. eScooters are popular with city inhabitants. At first, there was no regulation imposed by the municipality and as a result numerous accidents and overcrowded pavements were the result. The French capital has now agreed a code of conduct with suppliers. According to the code, fines are imposed for incorrect parking and scooting on sidewalks and in parks. If they do not follow the code the lenders will incur high costs.

Also, in Spanish cities regulations for the use of scooters were implemented after several accidents.  For example, a 90-year-old woman was fatally injured in a collision. In Madrid, scooters may no longer be used on sidewalks, many roads and bus lanes. They are only allowed on bicycle lanes and some 30 km speed zones. Barcelona and Valencia have introduced even stricter rules than those implemented in Madrid.


Future questions and challenges for municipalities

Due to high media interest, municipalities are under pressure to act. A central question remains as to whether micromobility brings traffic benefits or is merely a business model that attracts further Start-up-companies to the market. Will car trips be reduced or replaced, will there be a preference for public transport journeys, or will paths, normally used for walking, be replaced by scooter journeys?

Is cycling infrastructure, that is already inadequate for cyclists, sufficient to accommodate the new vehicles or do the users switch (illegally) to pavements and crowd pedestrians and other vulnerable people? What conditions must be created for micromobility to be perceived as a solution rather than a threat that causes further intensification and competition for public space?

These are some of the questions that need to be explored in the near future for the micromobility sector, which is still very new in Germany, so that safety is guaranteed for all road users, traditional public transport and bicycle traffic are not adversely effected due to their introduction but instead the desired relief and benefits for urban traffic can be achieved.

It remains to be seen whether micromobiles will fade away or if it will become an established holistic part of the street space across European cities. In the case of Germany, it can be helpful looking abroad, at other means of transport, beyond the boundaries of transport planning to consider the issues from several perspectives and find appropriate conclusions.

See also the PROSPERITY Innovation Brief on Micromobility here.

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