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European cities tighten rules for e-scooter hire companies

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Electric scooters, especially free-floating rental systems, remain controversial. For some, this new form of micromobility is an important contribution to the traffic turnaround, while others would like to ban the vehicles standing around altogether, or at least from the pavements. The major European cities have to decide how to deal with the rental scooters. Brussels and Berlin introduced new rules at the beginning of the year, lowering the permitted fleet sizes and threatening to tighten regulations.

Photo of a woman holding a mobile phone between turquoise blue e-scooters parked neatly at the side of the road. Modern office buildings in the background.

© Tier Mobility SE

Brussels: Last chance with drop zones

Back in May 2022, the Brussels Capital Region announced that it would drastically reduce the number of rental e-scooters from over 20,000 to 8,000. The industry was eagerly awaiting the outcome of the tender, which was only looking for two providers instead of nine. On 22 December, Bolt and Dott were awarded the contract. They will now operate the e-scooter hire systems for three years, while other companies (Felyx, GO Sharing, Tier and Pony) were successful with the bike and scooter sharing services. From February 2024, sharing fleets with 7,500 bicycles, 300 cargo bikes and 600 scooters will be permitted in the region in addition to the 8,000 scooters.

At the same time, parking on pavements is to be improved: Scooter parking will be restricted to 1,500 so-called "drop zones". The administration initially set these up in eleven of the 19 municipalities in the capital region, which together cover almost a third of the metropolitan area. In the remaining areas, the parking zones will initially only be arranged virtually and will be marked out over the course of the summer.

Belgian media described the tightening up as the "last chance" for e-scooters in Brussels. Last spring, Green Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt threatened a complete ban on rental scooters if the problems persisted. In 2022, Paris became the first major European city to ban the hire of e-scooters.

Berlin: Controls and data platform

In November 2023, the Berlin Senate also announced that it would regulate scooter hire more strictly. It reduced the number of free-floating rental scooters permitted within the S-Bahn ring from 25,000 to 19,000 and obliged the four brands active in Berlin - Bolt, Lime, Voi and Tier - to share their usage data on a platform. They also have to remove dangerously parked scooters and monitor the situation. The scooter providers began responding to problems in the autumn with foot patrols and better usage instructions. However, the providers reacted with irritation to the announcement that the administration could further reduce the number of authorised vehicles as early as the summer if there was "no noticeable improvement in order on pavements". "Micromobility is part of a modern transport service, but it must be organised and as safe as possible for all road users," emphasised the responsible Senator Manja Schreiner from the CDU in the press release.

As with bicycles, scooters can be parked anywhere in Berlin as long as no-one is obstructed. In addition, the administration has designated no-parking zones, which have now been extended once again. In the future, the demand for e-scooter use will be determined with the help of the Vianova data platform. The current special use permits for the rental scooters are valid until the end of March 2025.