While most electric scooters have been removed from the snowy streets of Tallinn, one company, Tuul is still renting them out despite the cold weather. During winter, however, there are, perhaps unsurprisingly, fewer clients, the rides are shorter and are mostly done for practical rather than recreational reasons. The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) opposes electric scooter use during the most wintry conditions.
Tuul says its scooters are built so that they can withstand the cold weather and sub-zero temperatures, while their competitors' vehicles disappeared from the streets once the snow started to arrive in January.
At the same time, this is the first time opportunity for Tuul to try whether their products would get any winter use.
Tuul operation manager Kai-Lii Merisalu couldn't put a figure on the number of users, though she noted that it has so far been much smaller than in summer or autumn. At the same time, frequent customers do exist, the company says, and some users make more than one ride per day, albeit confined to central Tallinn over short distances.
In 2019, the first year for-hire electric scooters made their appearance in the capital from June onwards, they just as suddenly disappeared from the streets around the end of October. In 2020, firms operating in the arena tended to let scooter season run a lot longer, only temporarily withdrawing the vehicles - which require nightly maintenance and recharging in any case - when conditions necessitated it.
However, once the snow arrived and looked set to stay for the time being, Bolt, one of the main suppliers, removed its scooters from circulation.
Private scooter owners can of course use their vehicles when then see fit.
Tuul's versions reportedly also have suspension, which can help with the conditions, though winter in any case brings challenges, Merisalu went on. "The peculiarities of the winter period include cleaning vehicles, the snow itself, weather forecasts and the state of the roads."
Not everyone is convinced, however.
PPA Northern Prefecture traffic supervision center patrol service manager Varmo Rein said that since cycle lanes are snow-bound and/or slippery, using electric scooters is neither safe nor comfortable.
"The PPA recommends confining electric scooter usage to the period when the roads are free of snow. This is both safer for the rider and for other road users. Equally, when using a bicycle in winter, special tires should be used," Rein said.
Several scooter accidents have been reported since the products became a common sight on the streets of Tallinn and other towns, while one scooter-related fatality, in Tartu, was reported last year.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte