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Interview with Hedi Mardisoo, CEO: Electric scooters are here to stay. Instead of outright bans, people should start taking more responsibility.

Residents of Paris voted in favor of banning electric scooter rentals, fed up with the accumulation of scooters on streets, and with related traffic accidents. 

Hedi Mardisoo, co-founder and CEO of Cachet: Micromobility vehicles are here to stay. This helps achieve climate goals, and we all want an urban environment that is less polluted and more navigable. To achieve this, three things are necessary.

Firstly, a very good infrastructure is needed: bike lanes, safe streets without high curbs, enabling safe movement. This is the case in Amsterdam and Denmark, for example. Tallinn is moving in that direction, but it takes time.

The second aspect is people themselves. Today, people are not accustomed to sharing the road with all kinds of small vehicles – they appeared suddenly, and people haven’t adjusted yet. To acclimate people, the approach cannot be to blame electric scooter platforms or anyone else, but rather to vigorously instill a traffic culture. I come from an insurance background, and through insurance products, we communicate individual responsibility. One underdeveloped issue in Estonia is taking responsibility for one’s own accidents. If someone causes an accident or damage to another, compensation can be sought. Just as motor vehicle insurance has been established, the same logic applies to electric scooters. If someone collides with another person, causing harm to them and their belongings, that person should indeed take responsibility.

The third aspect is the entire platform economy, which has brought us bikes, scooters, and all sorts of other things for urban mobility. It is absolutely certain that more rules are needed for platforms to exert greater control over riders. For instance, solutions are needed to prevent two people from riding on a device simultaneously or to reduce intoxicated riding. The latter is extremely challenging. I have a feeling that all platforms are currently dealing with this. The same control should be exercised by municipal police and law enforcement to vigorously and rapidly adapt this culture. In Tallinn, focused parking areas have been established for Bolt and Tuul electric scooters. However, the question remains – we want these to be accessible everywhere. So, how to solve this remains an open question for me today.

I do not support banning electric scooters, but I do seriously see that this field should be developed from three perspectives: infrastructure, people’s responsibility as road users, and the control of vehicles to also regulate people’s behavior.

In your opinion, should electric scooter companies collaborate more with the city and urban strategists?

I view electric scooters in the same category as bikes and electric bicycles. I would take this as a unified whole. We will have more electric bicycles, regular bicycles, and cargo bicycles – many services will turn to cargo bikes in the future, such as postal services, etc. Therefore, one category naturally encompasses all electric scooters with a certain power output. And certainly, more powerful and higher-speed devices should be registered in the same category as cars.

To what extent would a similar ban, like the one now being implemented in Paris, be detrimental to Tallinn?

Paris’ decision only affected eight percent of the entire city of Paris, and it’s somewhat populist. Those who are bothered always tend to vote. The fact is that the discussion exists – that’s very good. I think a prohibition tactic is not reasonable. Tallinn is not Paris; there is significantly more space here. We should be pragmatically Estonian in a positive sense, to bring together responsibility and make some common agreements, and perhaps think about what controls everyone could implement and what is an individual’s responsibility. All of these should be developed in parallel. The fact is that Tallinn must become greener; people must be able to safely navigate with small micro-vehicles. Prohibiting something is not sensible, but rules need to be established!

Original article published in Eesti Päevaleht on 04.04.2023.

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