There is a lot of anger about e-scooters and other sharing vehicles lying around on Berlin's sidewalks. How can the chaos be remedied and the offers can also make a meaningful contribution to mobility on the outskirts of the city? About it discussed on Thursday again the transport committee of the House of Representatives.
On the agenda was an expert hearing on the amendment of the Berlin Road Law. With the law, the red-red-green coalition wants to regulate the providers of rentable e-scooters, rental bikes and car-sharing services on the streets of the capital.
The Senate wants to declare the offers for these a special use of road land. In this way, the city wants to limit how many services are on the roads and how many vehicles are allowed per company. Operating rules yet to be worked out are also planned. In addition, businesses are to pay fixed user fees per vehicle starting in June 2023 - that's the plan.But there have been debates about the plan for months. While, for example, the association of pedestrians FUSS e.V. and representatives of associations for the visually impaired have been calling for strict regulation for a long time, the sharing industry has so far tried everything to prevent the law. Now, however, at least the e-scooter providers are giving in.
So it's understandable what Lawrence Leuschner, chief executive and co-founder of Berlin-based e-scooter startup Tier, told the committee, "It's right for Berlin to establish regulation. Tier does not oppose special use." But that alone is not enough, he added. What's also needed, he said, is a call for bids by the state.
"Only with an RFP can they select the criteria that providers must meet. Set the standards high and select only the best vendors." Alexander Jung of Lime also said he would be "basically willing" to participate in an RFP with clearly defined rules for vendors.
The companies' statements represent a turnaround. Until now, the services had tried to prevent the amendment of Berlin's road law by all means. Only recently, they made an offer to the Senate for voluntary self-regulation, if the state would forego the stricter law. Apparently, they had to realize that they could not dissuade the red-red-green coalition from the project in this way.
At the same time, however, Tier boss Leuschner and Lime representative Jung made it clear what was needed for a successful model: more space for the offerings on Berlin's streets. "We're talking about thousands of parking spaces that need to be created," Leuschner said. To stop chaos on the streets, he said, there needs to be a parking space every 250 meters. Jung took a similar view.
If there is not a sufficient density of stations, the hoped-for traffic effect of the offers - less car traffic - would fail to materialize. "Acceptance on the user side already drops sharply at a distance of 150 meters." There must therefore be a parking station at every intersection.
Stefan Taschner (Greens), a member of parliament, had previously called for something similar. The reality in Berlin looks so far however differently. In two years, only 38 parking spaces have been created in the city, the providers complained. In Paris, there would have been 2500 parking spaces for e-scooters within a few months. And even in flowing traffic, the necessary infrastructure is lacking, criticized Alexander Jung. "In a 50 zone without a bike lane, it's not surprising that people switch to the sidewalk."
The vendors found support from Kristian Ronneburg (Left). "Let's get on the road to concessioning rental vehicles," he said. It's not about just limiting the number, he said. Instead, he said, it is necessary to regulate the supply and fit it into the mobility of Berlin.The Left Party, therefore, wants to revise the current draft law. In addition to the number of vehicles, it should also be possible to specify the spatial distribution of the service in the city by means of an invitation to tender.FDP politician Henner Schmidt sees it differently. "The bill provides the Senate with far too extensive regulatory options for free choice, which would endanger the attractive offers of sharing." Among other reasons, he said, the coalition should refrain from passing it before the election.
Image by Christian Bueltemann