This week point unveiled an experiment to send bad e-scooter riders back to school.
In a first pilot in Rome and Milan, Dott is launching a scheme where bad riders who repeatedly park e-scooters poorly (outside a permitted area or in violation of the highway code) are sent to a driving course.
Specifically, second violators receive a fine from Dott and a guide to parking and local rules. A third violation invites them to attend “a mandatory and free driving course in the fall of 2022”.
I spoke to Rob Haycocks, head of PR communications at Dott. They told me that the brand is working closely with local authorities to set up a course adapted to cities and addressing the most common rider behavior problems.
The problem, however, is that the course is not a legal requirement. “We’re looking at how best to encourage users to participate, for example with Dott credit or free rides,” Haycocks says.
I think this gets to the heart of the problem. How do micromobility operators prevent, reduce and respond to bad driving?
The battle to stop riders from acting like motherfuckers
In the past five years, every operator has rolled out technology to curb and punish bad driving.
Voi launched for example RideLikeVoila — a digital traffic school for e-scooters — and introduced a ‘end of ride photo‘ where drivers must provide visual proof of correct parking or risk a £25 (US$35) fine. Neuron Mobility has the Scooter Safe Academy.
Super pedestrian and Lime Use AI to detect curb driving and other bad behavior, audibly warn drivers and slow down the escooter. Lime also conducts a nighttime driver’s test for alcohol. It tests riders on their reaction times before they can unlock an escooter.
However, when we talk about bad driving, there are no statistics on the number of private escooters on the street.
In most cases (except in the UK) they have been vastly absent from the bad rider story. And Italy let people buy their own escooters, launch a subsidy scheme in 2020 allowing residents to recover up to €500 ($500) of the purchase price.
Who controls private drivers?
While micromobility operators do the heavy lifting, pushing back private owners relies on police being vigilant and motivated enough to fine people for speeding or riding on the sidewalk. And there’s no way to slow or stop a private escooter in operation.
Only a few cities, such as Dubai and Montrealhave local parking tickets for lawbreakers or for driving on the curb (Paris). In addition to these initiatives, cities such as Berlin and Stuttgart are also rolling out parking zones, offering micromobility customers free minutes to use them. But this is not an incentive for private drivers to use a parking zone.
Collaboration is crucial
Micromobility operators spend an inordinate amount of time working with local municipalities to manage the flow of e-scooters in their cities.
But almost every city has multiple vendors. Successful behavioral checks must extend across all fleets. Otherwise, people who get fined in one app will just jump on a competing brand’s escooter.
Who are bad riders?
Anecdotally, ask most members of the public who the bad riders are, they will most likely pick adolescent males. However, no micromobility provider has publicly shared the demographics of bad offenders. And we don’t have demographics on private owners.
Although nighttime speed traps and cognitive tests point to the problem of drunk drivers speeding at night.
But do people ride e-scooters after a night of drinking because there is not enough public transport after dark? It’s hard to say, despite the story surrounding scooters and their critical role in last mile mobility.
Furthermore, some drivers choose curbside riding because they feel unsafe on streets next to cars, highlighted by focus groups from women riding e-scooters.
Women also mentioned the danger of driving in slow zones with unexpected delays. Some felt unsafe to drive at night because of the slow pace, or because they had to walk on a heavy scooter in areas where they no longer function at night.
This means that not all controls affect all riders equally.
Micromobility providers are united in trying a combination of carrot and stick approaches to control driving.
But in the end we will only get riders and quirky e-scooters off the pavement by providing high quality, protected bike lanes and accessible parking.
And as for the bastards who willfully drive bad for fun? If it could be made mandatory by law enforcement, Dott’s driving school could be the key.