Concern in Stockholm over rental bikes and scooters

A young woman is riding a scooter through the streets of Stockholm. Some more scooters are parked by the side of the road. A group of people stand near to them, talking to one another.

writer icon Peter Karlsson     VOI/Jacky Sin   |   City     🕐 26. Sep. 2018

There is a rising concern in Stockholm as dockless electric scooters and bicycles are set to invade the city.

Breakit reported that twelve different companies want to place electric bicycles and scooters on Stockholm's streets.

Expect over-crowding
Daniel Helldén, Minister for Transport in Stockholm, thinks this rise in engagement is interesting. Overall, he is positive about the idea of rental scooters and bikes. "It will make it easier for inhabitants to move around", he said.

However, he identifies a few issues. If there are too many rental bikes, then the city risks being overrun.

"It begins to be a problem because they compete with ordinary bikes"
, he explained, referring to issues of bike parking in the city centre.

Scooters in Stockholm
VOI, a Swedish company that launched just one month ago, already inhabits Stockholm’s streets with their electric-powered scooters. The e-scooters can be tracked through the VOI app. There are no permanent docking stations, so users are free to ride the scooter where they choose. When finished, they can leave it wherever they are.

Helldén believes this free-floating system can be problematic. He commented on how people do not consider what happens after they are finished with dockless scooters or bikes. "People don't feel any responsibility", he said.

VOI is aware of this issue. They educate their riders to treat the city and its citizens with respect when using the scooters. "If they fail to do so it can eventually lead to loss of access to the platform", Caroline Hjelm, CMO of VOI Technology, explained.

Banned in some cities
One company apparently keen to enter the Swedish market is Lime. Lime had a strong beginning in San Francisco. However, after dockless bikes and scooters took over the streets, the city subsequently announced a ban.

All the transport companies had to apply for a permit, and Lime was not successful in its application. 

Responsible approach
VOI is keen not to repeat the mistakes witnessed in San Francisco. "We have been focused on limiting the number of e-scooters, in the beginning, to control how and where they are used", Hjelm explained.

"We know that cities around the world have had very different experiences with e-scooters."
Hjelm shared that VOI wants all the cities they eventually work with to have a positive experience from the beginning. "We are focussed on doing it responsibly", she said.

Rules in Stockholm
The current rules in Stockholm say that any cycles or scooters that are left for more than 24 hours are impounded. The same goes for those that are placed dangerously on roads or on pavements.

Other than that, there are currently no requirements for companies to get a permit prior to their launch. "Today, there is no possibility to control these bikes of scooters", Helldén remarked. "It is free for people to put them out".

A viable alternative
There is praise out there for the dockless scooters and bicycles. They help to raise the issue of cutting down car-use and encouraging people to choose more sustainable options when getting from A to B.

VOI appears to be a popular service, thus far. "During the first three weeks, 30 000 Stockholmers have downloaded our app and together made 35 000 journeys with our service", said Fredrik Hjelm, CEO of VOI Technology.

It remains to be seen whether the politicians in Stockholm will follow the way of San Francisco, and insist on permits. They may yet find another solution.

Keep the locals happy
The success of dockless e-scooters and bikes will most likely be impacted by how well the locals take to them. Helldén believes that the most important factor will be how well the service actually works. He pointed out that there have been other companies that have launched with a similar model, such as oBike. They failed to thrive and subsequently withdrew.

"If it [the service] won't work, then I think people will be angry. But if they make life easier then they will be a success",
 Helldén declared.

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