Two companies and a thousand electric scooters. That is the current situation of this rental personal mobility vehicle (VMP) in Santa Cruz, where, unlike Paris, they continue to bet on regulation against the ban. And it is that the consultation carried out in the French capital to decide whether to prohibit the commercial activity of renting scooters has reopened the debate in many Spanish cities, in which the presence of this new means of transport is causing numerous problems. In Paris, it has been decided to prohibit the rental activity of these VMPs, which are already 15,000, and which in 2022 were involved in up to 459 accidents, resulting in three deaths and 426 injuries.
In Santa Cruz, with a much lower number of scooters and accidents, although, unfortunately, with one deceased, it has been decided to regulate it through the new Mobility ordinance that is currently on public display.
This rule regulates the use of the scooter in a general way, both for private users and for rental companies. In this way, it ratifies the prohibition that these vehicles circulate on the sidewalks and introduces new features, such as the obligation for all users to wear a helmet and a reflective vest, and limits their use to those over 15 years of age. Violating any of these guidelines will be considered a very serious infraction, so the fines will range from 1,500 to 3,000 euros.
Companies are forced to have an app that guarantees real-time information on the location of all vehicles, in addition to providing them with the necessary software to prevent the termination of the lease if it is parked outside the authorized places. Also so that it avoids its circulation on sidewalks and pedestrian spaces.
The Councilor for Mobility, Evelyn Alonso, assured that the current situation is much less chaotic in the city than it was at the beginning of its implementation, after the confinement. She defends that “it is a method of personal mobility that has come to stay”, although she admits that its implementation is being somewhat chaotic, since the regulation has to be state. “Given the slowness of the State, many city councils are seeing the obligation to regulate part of this implementation, such as, for example, the use of helmets,” she explained. He added that “right now we are rearranging the use of the scooter, because we cannot prohibit this personal mobility vehicle that is authorized by the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT)”, while in terms of commercial activity, “we have managed to regulate its implantation so that we can all live together”. “It is true that at the beginning -he continues- when four or five companies suddenly appeared, we found scooters anywhere, but we have seen that with the collaboration of the two current companies, a more correct use has been achieved. The introduction of geolocated car parks, so that if the scooter is not left parked correctly, it continues to be charged, has helped to improve the situation”.
Regarding private use, the councilor calls for responsibility and awareness with other users of public roads. “The new Mobility ordinance is going to give us the necessary tools for better control,” she added.
The possibility of the City Council tendering its own electric scooter rental service, as is the case in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is still on the table. “The Mobility Area was created last July and we have had to prioritize issues such as signaling and maintenance contracts or the implementation of the Low Emission Zone, and, as with the cooperation of the companies we have seen that improvements have been achieved, We have delayed this decision.” He indicated that “as soon as we have definitively approved the Mobility ordinance (which is expected by the end of May), we will be able to resume this tender.”
UP and Cs
From the opposition in the City Council, both UP and Cs agree that what is needed is greater and better regulation in the face of the prohibition. Ramón Trujillo, spokesman for UP, pointed out that “we do not agree with the prohibition, because it is one thing to regulate them so that they do not occupy spaces on the sidewalks or bother the neighbors, and another very different thing is to prohibit them.” He estimates that “they have a lot of positive aspects, such as energy savings compared to cars, the little space they take up or the possibility of freeing up urban space from cars. They are an element of sustainable mobility that must be promoted together with the bike lanes and VMP”.
From Cs, Matilde Zambudio expressed himself in similar terms. She pointed to the lack of regulation as her main problem. “A uniform and reinforced municipal regulation is needed, in turn, at the national level. Our opinion is that this means of transport must be controlled, the use can be limited, the number of scooters or that the service is provided by the City Council itself”. “We are not in a position to affirm -he continued- if it is legally viable to prohibit companies from operating in Santa Cruz, we do not have that answer, I understand that it could be an option to study, but, above all, what we are clear about is that it must be Prioritize above all the safety of the pedestrian.
Faced with these opinions in favor of the regulation is the platform in defense of the rights of people with disabilities, Queremos Moversos. Its spokesperson, Ana Mengibar, is clear about it. “Of course they must be prohibited,” she stated, adding that “they are a business that only benefits those who make cash at the expense of road insecurity and citizen insecurity.” “The only solution -he continues- that we see as viable is the obligation of anchoring points connected to the rental payment. That they pay from the moment they unhook the scooter and the billing does not end until they hook it up again”. In addition, she denounced that “we pay for reserved places for exclusive use and in streets like El Pilar, we don’t have a place, instead there are for scooters.”