Paris e-Scooter Ban Could Stretch into Russia

Safety issues of rented e-scooters are not new, yet the total ban in the French capital surprised many around the world.

In Russia, it inspired calls for a French-style decision from high-profile figures including members of parliament and the Prosecutor General of Russia. The scooter opponents are using the results of a series of surveys conducted in April. According to them, between 20% and 37% of the population believe that e-scooter sharing should be dismissed. On the other hand, the number of scooter proponents ranges from 33% to 60% of all citizens, depending on the poll.

Remarkably, one of the surveys conducted by the job search platform SuperJob also showed that people’s disapproval of e-scooters was higher than that of cyclists or car drivers, although the interviewed experts were not sure why this was the case. “Personally, I see e-scooters as bicycles,” said freight blogger Roman Mironov. “Scooter riders reveal the general problem of a lack of control on the road rather than cause it.” Two factors can contribute to the issue, said Pavel Loktyushin, regional head of non-commercial organization Drivers of Russia: “Firstly, rented e-scooters are easily accessible to people who lack basic skills and knowledge of good behavior in automotive or pedestrian traffic, secondly, their speed is often significantly higher than that of bicycles.”

However, Dmitry Chuyko, CEO of Whoosh, questioned the validity of this and other surveys: “SuperJob didn’t disclose the details of the study,” he said. “Overall, to get an objective picture, surveys should be conducted among all citizens, not just job seekers.” He suggested that the city council of France’s capital had made the same mistake: “It was reported that 103,084 citizens turned out to vote which is about 7.5% of registered voters in Paris, and there had been a high proportion of older citizens who tend to have strong (negative) opinions on the matter.” Thus, the authorities’ decision was based more on people’s emotional reaction than hard data: “Suppose they surveyed car owners in the middle of a traffic jam about a possible bus ban, would they expect a different result?”

Lessons from Paris

In Russia, a number of other studies indicate that the scooter sharing culture is gradually improving. For example, Renaissance Insurance recently reported that the frequency of safety incidents decreased from two incidents per 100,000 trips in 2021 to 1.4 incidents in 2022, mostly low-damage ones, which is many times lower than that of cars.

He suggested that this was partly owing to local authorities and business players founding their strategies on use cases from European cities including Paris: “Some Parisians described the situation with e-scooters in the city as ‘anarchy’ because local e-scooter operators and authorities had failed to develop a unified approach to regulating e-scooter sharing. Scooters were parked chaotically and there were no specific traffic rules and speed limit zones. This is the root cause of the situation getting out of control.” To prevent this, Russian business players worked closely with the authorities to develop clear service rules. It is crucial to institutionalize emerging modes of transport that are in high demand, he said.

Nevertheless, common people can have a subjective impression that things became worse. Over the same period, the number of trips has surged even faster, so the total number of safety incidents has increased, according to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. A worrying number of vandalism and dangerous riding instances can also contribute to the negative perception of shared e-scooters.

In March, the Russian government introduced amendments to the traffic law related to personal mobility devices. Essentially, the speed of an e-scooter or other micro-vehicle was limited to 25kph (15mph) and its weight to 35kg (77lbs). Wherever there is no cycling lane, a rider is allowed to ride on a walk lane with a speed limit of 15kph (9mph). The law also gives the pedestrians the right of way over micro-vehicles. “Now scooter-sharing users, private vehicle owners and other road users have a clear understanding of how to interact on the roads, sidewalks and bike lanes,” he said.

Other experts interviewed for the article are skeptical about the authorities’ ability to enforce obedience. A number of technological solutions to this obstacle are now being developed and implemented across the country, however, it will take time for them to visibly improve safety. Cycling infrastructure must also be well-developed: “Car drivers’ perception of e-scooters is evidently better in areas with quality cycling lanes,” Loktyushin said.

“Introducing traffic rules for e-scooters is vital, as scooters have become an essential part of modern cities,” said Chuyko. “We advocate for a data-driven approach, not an emotional one. While working out new rules, we should consider the interests of all citizens, as they directly affect their lives.”

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