Vienna Appoints Its First “Scooter Sheriffs”

Scooter scoundrels beware – there’s a new sheriff in town! In an effort to address complaints regarding e-scooters cluttering sidewalks, Vienna’s Wirtschaftskammer (Economic Chamber) has partnered with Lime, a major provider, to find common ground and promote co-existence between residents, pedestrians and e-scooter users. Dubbed “Scooter sheriffs” – a play on Parksheriff, the local nickname for traffic wardens – their responsibilities include moving incorrectly-parked scooters, picking up fallen scooters and cautioning riders caught parking improperly. 

First introduced in the summer of 2018, rentable e-scooters have been a resounding success, quickly altering the cityscape by offering convenient short-range transport on demand. In 2019, there were 10 companies in Vienna who offered the service; and while the pandemic has reduced the number of providers to 5, there are still 6,000 e-scooters on the street. In fact, the decrease in supply has only heightened demand, with Lime reporting over 100,000 more customers compared to before COVID-19.

But despite their popularity, Vienna’s relationship with e-scooters is highly ambivalent. The very convenience that makes them appealing – simply unlock via smartphone app and walk away once you’re done – is a point of contention: Unlike Vienna’s own city bike system, there are no designated scooter stations, meaning that users often leave them whenever their time runs out, with little regard for others. This has led to hundreds of complaints from residents and shop owners about e-scooters lying around curbsides, causing a nuisance and a safety risk. 

In addition, reckless riding has also caused concern: Within the first 9 months of their introduction, rented e-scooters amassed over 1,559 police reports and 1,015 registered reports by civilians, most of them prompted by speeding and running red lights. 

There have been some efforts to address the problem: The city has already passed several regulations, and in 2020, the Bezirksvorsteher (district chairman) of the 7th district, Markus Reiter (Greens), launched three e-scooter racks to help unclutter sidewalks. 

This latest initiative has been in service as of last Friday, with scooter sheriffs patrolling the 1st district on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Currently still in the experimental phase, the initiative will be evaluated in two months; If results are promising, it will expand to other districts. “With this pilot project, Vienna’s Wirtschaftskammer wants to show the people that compromise on the matter is indeed possible,” said Dieter Steup, the Chamber of Commerce’s’ local chairman for the first district. Whether these newly appointed peacemakers can indeed clean up the sidewalks, time will tell.