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TRANSPORT

Spanish cities grapple with invasion of electric scooters

Cities across Spain are grappling with electric scooters that have popped up on sidewalks across the country, helping riders zip around but exasperating drivers and pedestrians.

Spanish cities grapple with invasion of electric scooters
Photo: AFP

In Madrid public opinion is divided over the hundreds of electric scooters which California-based start-up Lime — partly owned by ride-hailing Uber and Google parent company Alphabet — has made available since mid-August.   

Unlike schemes involving shared bicycles that typically must be left in docking stations, the scooters are dockless, leaving riders responsible for parking them out of the way. The next rider can find the nearest scooter with a smartphone app, unlock it and use it for a fee.

Similar electric scooter sharing programmes have been introduced in other European cities including Paris, Vienna and Zurich.   In Madrid, Lime's scooters — which have already been used over 100,000 times — are tolerated by the left-wing city hall, intent on reducing pollution.

But the scooters are often left in places where they obstruct sidewalks — and their users often speed by pedestrians or hog roads.   

Last month a video of two people, including a child, wearing masks while they raced along a highway near the Mediterranean port of Valencia on an electric scooter went viral.

“They don't respect anything at all. We need rules. It's crazy. They ride on lanes reserved for buses and taxis. They cross in front of cars,” Fernando Sobrino, a 59-year-old taxi driver, told AFP as he waited for passengers in the centre of Madrid.

Jose Manuel, a 55-year-old salesman, complained the scooters “ride on sidewalks without any control”.

“There is a risk of getting rear-ended by one as happened to me the other day,” he said as he made his way along the Gran Via, a busiest shopping street in central Madrid.

'Dangerous and annoying'

The arrival of the scooters in Madrid follows the introduction of a public electric bike share system in June 2014.   

Users of the scooters are delighted.   

“You move around faster, you can visit more areas, it's relaxing and easy to use,” said Monica Rodriguez, 58, at Madrid's bustling Retiro park.   

She admitted, though, that the scooters can be “dangerous and annoying for people who are walking”.

Thle introduction of this new form of transport caught big Spanish cities off guard. In Madrid, which is home to around 3.2 million people, there are no aws regulating the use of scooters.

Now the municipality plans to introduce a new mobility plan that will include rules for scooters.

Valencia is set to adopt new rules banning scooters from sidewalks.

Seizures

Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city which is overwhelmed by mass tourism, already bans the use of privately owned scooters from sidewalks.   

“Self service” scooter rentals like those offered by Lime are banned.   When German firm Wind launched an electric scooter sharing programme in Barcelona in August, within hours police removed the vehicles from the streets.   

The municipality of Llobregat near Barcelona stopped Lime from setting up shop.

The scenario was repeated in Valencia, which has an extensive network of bike lanes.    

Lime deployed a fleet of scooters in the city in August without authorisation from city hall, which demands alicence for anyone who carries out a commercial activity on public roads.

Lime's scooters were removed and the firm was slapped with a fine. It is now trying to convince Valencia city hall to allow it to pay a fee in exchange for an operating licence.

Lime's representative in Spain, Alvaro Salvat, said he regrets the lack of specific laws for electric scooters in Madrid and most Spanish cities.   

“We are the first to ask for them for our users, for residents, so we know where to go and where not to go,” he told AFP.

By AFP's  Julien Delacourt and Mathieu Gorse

READ MORE: Barcelona bans Segways from tourist clogged waterfront

TECHNOLOGY

Malaga to trial Spain’s first self-driving bus

Spain’s first self-driving bus will begin to take public passengers from this Saturday, February 20th.

Malaga to trial Spain's first self-driving bus
Image: Largeroliker / WikiCommons

Created as part of the AutoMOST R + D + I project in participation with Avanza bus company and Malaga City Council, the 12-metre electric bus features autonomous driving technology and will be a revolutionary addition to the transport system.

The mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, companied by the president of the Port of Malaga Authority, Carlos Rubio, and the general director of Avanza, Valentin Alonso were the first to ride in this driverless bus.

Mayor de la Torre said “Malaga has been a pioneer in creating ways to improve life in the city”. “We were also the first city to implement contactless cards on buses,” he added.

The self-driving bus is the first of its kind to circulate in real traffic and will be in operation on line 90 from the Maritime Station in the port area to the Paseo del Parque in the front of the City Hall.

Malaga will become the first European city to implement this new autonomous driving technology in a bus, which is also environmentally friendly, run fully on electricity and which produces zero emissions.

The city council said in a statement that this move reinforces Malaga’s commitment to sustainable mobility and the use of new technologies adapted to transport.

In previous projects, self-driving tests have only been carried out using smaller vehicles, not the standard 12-metre buses that are in daily circulation around the city.

12-metre buses are the world standard, so in theory it will be possible to implement this same type of technology in other models of the same size around the world.

In order for the technology to work, Malaga City Council has invested 180,000 euros in smart traffic lights, which communicate with the bus telling it when to go and stop.

Initially the self-driving bus will run for three weeks, but the traffic lights will remain in place, allowing for the implementation of other self-driving systems in the future, such as driverless cars.

For the next three weeks, residents can ride the self-driving bus completely free of charge. It will operate from Saturday February 20th to March 13th, from Tuesdays to Saturdays 9:30am to 2:30pm.

You can book a ticket on the bus in advance by visiting www.emtmalaga.es

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