Congestion Without Pollution: E-Scooters Crowding European Streets

A row of e-scooters.

E-scooters crowding European streets. (Image: Christian Bueltemann via Pixabay)

E-scooters were introduced as a solution to traffic congestion and pollution in cities. However, as more people have started using e-scooters in Europe, the region is experiencing a serious crisis in determining how they should be managed.

Congested streets

E-scooter sharing services started popping up in cities across Europe a few years back. Customers could pick up an e-scooter from a nearby place, travel anywhere in the city, and park the device where they wanted. All that the customer needed was a mobile phone and a credit card. People soon found this method of transportation appealing. One could easily cut through the traffic jams and arrive at the intended destination without wasting time.

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However, as the popularity of e-scooters increased, trouble began. People would travel on sidewalks with them, causing a nuisance to pedestrians. Since customers parked them wherever they wanted, the devices started filling every street, creating trouble for other vehicles. One of the main reasons for this problem is that cities were never designed with the necessary infrastructure to manage thousands of e-scooters.

Cities were never designed with the necessary infrastructure to manage thousands of e-scooters.
Cities were never designed with the necessary infrastructure to manage thousands of e-scooters. (Image: via Nspirement)

E-scooters congesting streets

“We have one of the largest cycling capacities anywhere… But we’re seeing congestion on some streets from e-scooters. And we don’t have sufficient parking infrastructure even for bikes. The scooters add a lot on top of that,” Mikkel Halby Mindegaard, head of the Streetlife Division for the city of Copenhagen, said to Time.

Some cities have started imposing fines. In Paris, electric scooters that are parked in a way that blocks pedestrians will be charged US$40 in fines. The Danish government is considering new laws that would limit the number of e-scooters that can be parked in a specific area. In the UK, people who ride e-scooters in public will be fined US$375. France and Germany are also in the process of proposing laws about using them in public.

Despite increasing regulation on the use of e-scooters, the industry potential remains strong. According to a new report, the electric scooter and motorcycle market in Europe is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 26.2 percent to US$892.4 million by 2025. “The major factors driving the growth of the market are the increasing usage of electric scooters for sharing services, growing concerns over emissions of greenhouse gases, rising government initiatives, and formulation of stringent emission laws,” according to Research and Markets.

Safety issues

E-scooters also present safety challenges. Since the devices can travel at speeds of up to 30 mph, accidents are now becoming quite common. Eleven people have died in such accidents since January 2018 in cities like Stockholm, Paris, London, Barcelona, and Brussels. In August, a French organization declared plans for suing Paris authorities for their negligence in protecting pedestrians from e-scooter accidents.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), e-scooters caused about 20 injuries for every 100,000 rides. “Almost half of the people we identified had a severe injury, such as a broken leg. Half of those we spoke to said a surface condition like a pothole or crack in the street may have contributed to their injury. A little more than a third of injured individuals said they would use a dockless electric scooter again,” according to the CDC.

Belgium has introduced a speed limit of 10-15 mph for e-scooters. In Sweden, the government has banned the use of any e-scooter capable of speeds in excess of 12 mph from using the city’s bicycle lanes.

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