The ‘war’ between the Valencia City Council and Lime for electric scooters.
The latest revolution in urban mobility are adults riding a scooter. In recent months, the Lime electric scooter rental service has come by surprise to cities such as Madrid and Valencia. The fact that these vehicles can be left anywhere has generated a concern similar to that raised by bicycles from companies such as oBike in the capital a few months ago. Cities are beginning to react to a lack of regulation that has caught everyone off guard.
Lime arrived in Valencia at the end of August, but a few days later the city council removed the scooters for occupying the public highway without permission. The war is far from over, as the company once again took them out onto the streets. Now, both sides assure that they will sit down to negotiate how the company can operate in the Levantine city. The councilor for sustainable mobility of the Coalició Compromís of the Valencia City Council, Giuseppe Grezzi, explains to Engadget that the problem is that the company “has not probed” the city council before starting its activity. Instead, “it has left 200 scooters out there, all of a sudden, generating concern.” In fact, he assures that the Association of residents of the city “has applauded” the decision to withdraw them. “In the end, a wrong idea of the scooter is transmitted, which is a magnificent complement in the change of model towards sustainability.”
For his part, the director of Lime Spain, Alvaro Salvat, assures that they tried to contact “for two months” with those responsible for mobility “without response.” He also says that the launch “was with notice”, that they have bet a lot for Valencia and that for this reason they feel “disappointed”.
Valencia is not a city suspected of opposing sustainable transport. In recent years, its streets have been covered with bike lanes and another nine are under construction. Nor does he seem to have problems with scooters: Grezzi himself considers this vehicle a “very interesting” element that “combines” with others such as bicycles and public transport. He assures that it has been used in the city for a couple of years privately: “People carry it in the trunk. Use the car outside the city, and inside, the scooter ”.
Grezzi anticipates that they have set their sights on the San Francisco concessions model, from which Lime was excluded
The current Valencia circulation ordinance, created by the previous PP government in 2010, disagrees. According to article 87, “it is prohibited to circulate with scooters or skateboards and the like on sidewalks, pedestrian areas and roads for public use, except in places specially designated for that purpose.” Places that, while waiting for a new regulation to update the previous one, are non-existent.
City Council sources confirm that in Valencia it is forbidden, “In theory”, to ride a scooter, although they admit that the police “allow” them to go on the bike lane. The arrival of Lime has put on the table the age of the ordinance and forced the city council to put the batteries with its update. “In a few weeks we will have the final decision,” promises Grezzi. “This mobility ordinance will regulate how you move and park. In addition, the public space ordinances regulate what authorization and requirements companies must comply with ”.
It is something that Salvat regrets: “Now there is no clear regulation. We would love for there to be one and our number one priority is to sit down and see what the mobility ecosystem is going to be like in the years to come. ” He assures that they have enough data to draw conclusions, and they offer them free of charge to “regulate not with theory, but with practice” and thus “improve the city.” In that sense, it is not opposed to the possibility of paying a fee, “as long as it is fair.”
A matter of education
Grezzi believes that the controversy is not just the fault of Lime or the lack of regulation. “There is still a lot of incitement. We have seen that they were left everywhere, just like motorcycles are parked on the sidewalks and cars in double file ”. The councilor believes that the key is for these vehicles to circulate through the cycle paths, in pedestrian areas at reduced speed, in the so-called cyclo-streets (where bicycles have priority and the maximum speed is 30 km / h) and that it is not used on the pavement.
The other issue that concerns rented scooters is, in addition to where to ride, where to leave them at the end of their use. Grezzi criticizes the mentality of “I rent it, the user leaves it where he wants and I disinterested myself”, when the current ordinance already prohibits leaving objects in places such as pedestrian crossings. The councilor explains that one possibility would be for the app itself to inform the user of the points where the scooter can be left, once these are clarified with the city council.
Citizen education aside, the ultimate responsible for the vehicle is its owner. Salvat defends himself by saying that Lime collects the scooters every night, to avoid the occupation of the streets, vandalism and also to check the vehicles.
Sources from the Valencia City Council also inform us that they are already meeting with startups that wish to place their scooters in the city once their use is regulated. The German Wind is joined by the Spanish Koko.
The current Valencian regulations prohibit riding scooters on sidewalks, pedestrian areas and roadways
Electric scooters have already conquered cities like San Francisco (USA), where they have not been exempt from criticism either because Lime was released with the same surprise strategy.
Grezzi anticipates that they have noticed the concessions model of the American city, from which Lime was excluded. In this way, the service would be privately managed but with public control, as is the case with the bicycle rental service in Madrid and Valencia. “We want to resolve this issue of incivility that harms coexistence in public space, sanctioning infractions. From there I think there will be space for everyone,” says the councilor.
While Valencian users wait for the use of the electric scooter to be regularized, it is not necessary to go to San Francisco in search of examples. At the end of 2017, Barcelona approved its regulations on electric scooters. This establishes a speed limit of between 20 and 30 km / h depending on the size of the vehicle and they can only circulate on the bike lane and cycle streets and at reduced speed on single platform streets and parks. The civic sense helps, but the first step for coexistence is in a clear regulation that says what we can and cannot do.
From SamaGame we have contacted the Madrid City Council to find out if they plan to make a similar decision in this regard, but they have referred us to the press conference after the last Government meeting. In it they admit that “Right now there is a legal vacuum” and they assure that they prefer not to address the issue until the mobility ordinance is closed at the end of the month.