Riders of electric rental scooters in Brussels face a huge drop in availability and parking options next year, if plans by Brussels legislators go ahead.
Concerns over e-scooters’ impact on safety, mobility and questions over their sustainability have led to a policy rethink. The government in the European capital is looking to slash scooter numbers from 21,000 to only 8,000 and is seeking just two scooter companies to tender for permission to operate from 2024-2027.
Parking or “drop zones” are currently supposed to be in effect around major transport hubs and the city intends to introduce more zones across the city, as well as penalty payments for ignoring them, in an attempt to address what many think of as a scourge of scooters found strewn across the city’s pavements and green spaces.
Brussels follows in the footsteps of some of its own neighbourhoods, who took matters into their own hands last year, as well as other cities worldwide in taking action. Barcelona, Lisbon, Montreal, Oslo, Paris and Stockholm have all either banned scooters or placed restrictions on their numbers and speed.
When they first arrived on the scene, scooters were hailed by some as a cheap and environmentally friendly addition to the public mobility menu. Indeed some scooter firms even used green credentials to promote themselves, witness Dott and their “clean rides for everyone” strapline.
However, Université libre de Bruxelles researchers have found manufacturing emissions and the high obsolescence factor of e-scooters (with a lifespan of just 7.5 months) means they are in fact worse polluters than the vehicles they were claimed to replace.
To make things worse, time has proven that instead of car drivers switching, it is pedestrians who hop on and hop off scooters to make their journeys faster, frequently using them on pavements, bringing more traffic to footpaths rather than helping to get cars off the roads. Full disclosure: I have been frustrated by this in my own neighbourhood, near a school and two train stations, where footpaths and cycle paths have often been blocked by abandoned scooters.
“The shared scooter has nothing to do with a sustainable modal shift,” sustainability blogger Kris Peeters has said. “And even less with sustainability. Not only are the scooters scattered all over the place at night, but they only last for a little more than a month. After that, they become electronic waste. The burdens are for society, the joys for the companies behind Bird, Lime, Bolt and others.”