E-Scooter Troubles

Electric scooters offer a fast and affordable means to zip around town – but as with other new tech, there are growing pains.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Viennese police attempted to question an e-scooter driver who made a “remarkably drunken impression” as he weaved across Südtiroler Platz. Dropping the scooter, the man took off on foot, but stumbled and was caught. The police are pressing charges.

This is the latest in a string of e-scooter incidents around the country. Five days earlier, a drunken e-scooter driver – illegally riding with a passenger – rolled into an inner-city police roadblock at 5 a.m.. Good sense suspended by alcohol, he resorted to elbowing and kicking the arresting officer. On July 3, two young women in Freistadt (again illegally sharing an e-scooter) lost control, crashed and were taken by ambulance to the hospital. Most dramatically, last month a 27-year-old woman in Linz argued with a 53-year-old man over an e-scooter – he pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the back, but ran away after another rider, observing the attack, threw his own e-scooter at the assailant’s head.

The list goes on – not just in Austria. Danish police have arrested dozens for drunk driving on e-scooters. People have died in accidents in Paris, France and Stockholm, Sweden. A 59-year-old in Auckland, New Zealand, too.

Fast, affordable, chic: E-scooters have been touted as the example par excellence of futuristic urban mobility – though their three-month shelf life, battery disposal issues and other questions have poked holes in their once-green image. Still, the six loss-making rental companies who’ve set up shop in Vienna alone indicate market confidence: Electric scooter rentals spread globally from five to 70 cities in 2018 alone.

More e-scooters turns out to mean more accidents – and cities are responding accordingly. As of June 1, e-scooters in Vienna must follow bicycle rules, obey speed limits, stay off the sidewalks, and avoid drunk driving. Lisbon, Portugal is instituting higher penalties for bad parking. Stockholm has banned them from its old city; Paris has lowered the speed limit and tightened parking rules; Brussels, Belgium is discussing measures and, as reported by the public broadcaster ORF, Germany is contemplating its options after 20 people were caught drunk-scooting in Munich in just three days in early July. In another incident, an ambitious Rhineland man was arrested for driving down the highway, while the German police union is calling for more people to wear helmets.

That would be a start.

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Naomi Hunt
Naomi Hunt is a managing editor at Metropole, with roots in the U.S. and Malaysia that have long been buried under Austrian soil. She previously served as a program manager at the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) and was a Senior Press Freedom Adviser at the International Press Institute (IPI).

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