In the spring of 2020, the streets of Groningen turned green as the city started a trial with shared electric scooters, in collaboration with e-sharing platforms Felyx and Go-sharing. Their green machines soon took over the streets and now, nearly a year later, it’s almost impossible to imagine the Groninger street scene without them. Upon first review, opinions are predominantly positive, but not all parties are fully convinced.
The aim of the shared scooter project is to increase and diversify citizen mobility in Groningen in an environmentally friendly manner, as well as to take pressure away from public transportation and the road system. The trial originally ran until the first of January 2021, after which the city council decided to continue with the project, but with stricter conditions for the use of the scooters and a license obligation for providers effective from the first of May.
“Shared scooters can have a positive impact on the sustainability of transport and enable more efficient use of space”, Jaap Valkema writes in an evaluative letter on behalf of the council of Mayor and Alderman. “In addition, the scooters can also increase the freedom of choice and flexibility of our citizens.”
However, Valkema also notes that the scooters come with some negative side effects: “traffic safety and irresponsible driving are points of attention, parked scooters are obstructing the public space and scooters are moreover competing with bicycles and walking than with cars.”
Rob Stomphorst from Veilig Verkeer Nederland (Safe Traffic Netherlands), agrees that this new type of omnipresence of electric scooters comes with some risks: “we still have to get used to those quiet motors, and people using e-scooters often don’t have a lot of experience driving them, that can lead to dangerous situations.”
However, according to Stomphorst, this is not something we can hold against the shared mobility project or the scooter providers. “The responsibility is always with the driver; the driver is always the weakest link. If I have a few beers or get distracted while driving, I’m the one causing the accident and not the scooter.”
This matter of liability, however, doesn’t change a thing about the nuisance that Groningers often experience from irresponsible drivers and the ubiquity of the scooter in the city centre in places where it shouldn’t be.
As Cor Hamstra from scootershop Hamstra Tweewielers puts it: “I don’t mind the business competition from them, but what does bother me, is that now every fool is racing around on these things and as soon as they are done with it, they dump it where they stand.”