New season brings changes to e-scooter parking rules in Tartu and Tallinn
Starting this March, under a new agreement with Bolt, electric scooters in Tartu will no longer be able to be parked on sidewalks less than 1.5 meters wide. Under Estonia's Traffic Act, the requirement already applies to other forms of transport, meaning e-scooters in Tartu will no longer be an exception. The City of Tallinn is also planning to follow suit.
The new restrictions will be brought into force via the Bolt app, which will no longer allow e-scooter users to end their journeys on narrow sidewalks. The right to park e-scooters on wider pavements will remain.
The City of Tartu has allocated 18 spots in public areas, where Bolt will install designated parking bays for e-scooters. At the company's request, the parking bays may also be equipped with charging points, where users can charge their electric scooters by themselves.
The parking bays will mostly be located in and around Tartu city center, but will also be in some suburbs including Annelinn, Tammelinn and Tähtvere and are due to be operational by late spring.
Meanwhile, according to Tallinn Deputy Mayor Tanel Kiik (Center), the capital is waiting for the government to deliver on its promise to introduce draft amendments to the Traffic Act.
Under the draft, Estonian Municipalities would have the power to set their own rules regarding speed limits, parking rules and other regulations for the use of e-scooters.
"The 25 kilometers per hour (maximum speed), which is generally allowed by the law is certainly not safe everywhere. Now, in agreement with the companies involved, at certain times of the day, there are lower speed limits in (Tallinn) Old Town. However, I think that municipalities could have more say in relation to this," Kiik said. "Perhaps there are districts where they want to set lower speed limits or introduce certain time restrictions, for example on weekends or maybe even on weekdays."
However, according to Kiik, that will be up to the new Riigikogu to decide.
Another important issue when it comes to the use of e-scooters, is parking, where legal requirements are not currently being fully met. According to Kiik, Tallinn wants to work with the private sector to build more designated parking bays for electric scooters. While there are some in the capital already, more could be installed close to public transport stops for instance.
Jaan Kekišev, managing director of Tuul Mobility OÜ, believes it is good that the City of Tallinn has already set up some designated parking stations for electric scooters.
"There are about 70 of them so far. We ourselves have also offered users a discount at some of the parking stations if they stop there," Kekišev explained. "According to the data we have seen, that kind of thing really helps to change people's behavior. However, we also see that there could be a lot more of these parking stations."
According to Kekišev, there are plenty of car parking spaces available, which could be repurposed as areas to park scooters and other forms of light transport including bikes.
Kekišev said, that it is also very important to raise awareness, so that people are familiar with the parking rules, as scooters are often left in the wrong place due to a lack of awareness.
"This is also required by the Traffic Act, which states that there must be at least 1.5 meters of space for pedestrians next to a car, which is parked partly on the sidewalk. For this to happen however, these sidewalks should be clearly identified," said Kekišev.
Both the Tuul and Bolt apps show users those areas where they cannot leave their scooters, such as Tallinn's Old Town.
"Perhaps it's because the place is dangerous and we can see that it's not suitable for parking. Or maybe the landowners have contacted us to say, that they don't want scooters in certain places due to safety reasons. We've always worked together (with them) to find good solutions," Kekišev said.
When it comes to city bikes, the system of parking in designated bays reduces the number of those left in areas where they are unlikely to be picked up by another user, or disappearing entirely.
"During the summer in particular, we have operators on the streets to make sure that the scooters are in good condition. You can report a broken bike either online or by phone," said Kekišev.
The number of bikes available also changes throughout the year according to demand.
Bolt is set to put its city bikes back out onto the streets in March, as soon as the weather permits. According to Bolt's electric scooter specialist, Aleksander Lilišentsev, the company is now waiting for the City of Tallinn to confirm the areas in which scooter use will be prohibited, in order for it to introduce its own restrictions.
"We definitely want to do this before the summer, when the most issues are likely to occur. We will definitely collect feedback from our customers and introduce restrictions ourselves if necessary. We have an idea to limit the speed limit to 15 kilometers per hour in courtyard areas, because that is where the majority of accidents happen," said Lilišentsev.
Meanwhile in Helsinki, preparations are underway for the parking of electric scooters in the city center to be restricted to designated areas only. Operators in the Finnish capital (Bird, Bolt, Lime, Ryde, Tier and Voi) will be asked to designate the parking spots on their apps so that users cannot park their scooters elsewhere.
According to Tier and Voi, while this is possible, it would not entirely prevent scooters from being left elsewhere. Elina Bürkland, head of Tier, told Finnish broadcaster Yle, that even if the location of parking bays are programmed into the company's app, GPS signals in the urban environment can lead to inaccuracies, which could cause users to park outside the designated parking space.
Last fall, there were approximately 15,000 rental scooters on the streets Helsinki. As the average distance traveled on e-scooters tends to be quite short, operators have insisted that parking spaces are located close together, for example, one every 50 meters. The new parking arrangements will only apply in the city center and not extend to the outskirts.
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Editor: Michael Cole