We interviewed Kathrin Hoffmann, Project Manager Innovation at Berlin Agency for Electromobility eMO.
eMO is part of Berlin’s business development agency Berlin Partner, helping companies to enter and to innovate the German capital. As a state agency, eMO’s work is mainly guided by the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, with major focus on the electrification of commercial transport, the provision of charging infrastructure, and the promotion of new mobility solutions.
Fluctuo: How is shared mobility helping to combat sustainability and environmental concerns in Berlin?
Kathrin: The most valuable contribution of shared scooters and bikes in Berlin right now is that they help to cover the last mile in the city. This can be crucial when it comes to reducing emissions as it increases the convenience of using a mix of shared mobility and public transport instead of the private car.
Additionally, 23% of Berliners use car-sharing one to three days per month, which relieves the environment, is easy on the wallet and saves resources compared to if everyone drove their own car to their destination.
For people living with limited access to public transport, new mobility solutions can make a real difference. Business areas are also sometimes difficult to reach. There are current projects in which micromobility providers cooperate closely with municipalities and companies, to make scooters available at the site so that people can use them to e.g. get to train stations and back.
"Those pilots have proven very successful and useful, as they improve the accessibility of certain areas; such trials are therefore crucial to a city’s development."
What’s the general attitude of the city towards micromobility?
I would say it’s rather neutral; the city is aware of the potential contribution of micromobility. Regarding bikes, of course we see that it’s important. With scooters, there’s a positive contribution in combination with public transport—especially as a last mile solution—as I’ve mentioned before.
It has been chaotic because of scooters lying around everywhere. Since September last year, micromobility operators have needed to apply for a special permit to run their service in the city, so it’s a permit-based system, and certain rules were put in place so that scooters, bikes and mopeds don’t block the sidewalks. On the other hand, Berlin implemented a new rule in January, which allows mopeds, scooters and bikes to be parked in formerly car-only parking spaces.
Moreover, the number of parking zones is increasing, due to our public transport provider expanding its mobility hub solutions and the districts of Berlin being asked to implement specific parking areas for micromobility. The Senate announced that, in addition to the 160 parking areas for micromobility we currently have, more than 100 new ones will be added this year, which will be installed mainly in the city centre.
Which safety regulations have been put in place?
The new permit-based system includes a range of regulations that mainly focus on where and how you are allowed to park a vehicle. Some of those regulations are not very easy to meet though! For example, all parking areas for micromobility are surrounded by no parking zones. Scooters and bikes need to be put into these parking areas but the GPS signal is not that accurate, so vehicles can still end up being parked outside these zones.
There’s also a rule in Berlin that, when parking on sidewalks, there should always be a width of 2m30 kept free for pedestrians, but sometimes the sidewalk is not even that broad. Also, the inaccuracy of GPS signals makes it difficult for the operators to check if scooters are parked correctly. We would all be happy if this general technical issue could be solved!
Would you say Berlin is well-adapted to shared cars and scooters and bikes, as all modes are really popular?
I think the operators are rather attracted by the city’s atmosphere, and not necessarily that we’re well-adapted. Berlin is the biggest start-up hub in Europe with lots of young people interested in innovative services, which is one reason why operators see a big opportunity to run their services here. Beyond that, Berlin hasn’t regulated that much (compared to other cities), which is another advantage for operators.
How is the electric car-sharing market in Berlin?
Electric car-sharing is not that big in Berlin. It was quite popular before, due to WeShare, a 100% electric car sharer that has recently been bought by MILES Mobility. Now they’re redistributing the electric cars to Hamburg and Munich, which led to Berlin’s numbers decreasing. Nevertheless, the overall electrification rate of car-sharing in Berlin is 15% whereas only 4% of private cars are electric by now.
From the 1st of January, scooters, bikes and mopeds were able to park for free in car spaces—has this caused conflict between car users and micromobility users?
As far as I know, there haven’t been any severe disagreements. Mopeds are the main reason for this new rule, as they were parked on pavements, which officially wasn’t allowed. The city just didn’t do anything against it, because there wasn’t another option, but now there is. Hopefully it won’t cause any conflicts!
Which future developments do you expect to see in the shared mobility sector in Berlin?
Even though there are still some new shared mobility services coming to Berlin, I don’t expect the market to grow much further, as we already have a lot of shared vehicles in the city. There are even discussions on potential restrictions on scooters, maybe in the form of a public tender. The contract with Nextbike as the city’s bike sharing system will end next year, so the new tender might include both bikes and scooters.
There are currently 41,000 scooters in Berlin from four operators; a general tender could also reduce it to three.
"But the number of operators is not that important. It’s rather the number of vehicles, so that it’s manageable."
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