The beleaguered cities of today are faced with yet another dire threat as mountains of dockless e-scooters pile up on street corners, laying in wait for unsuspecting pedestrians to trip over them. Perhaps the threat is exaggerated, but the popularity of two-wheeled electric transport is skyrocketing. At some point cities will have to take action, and if all goes according to plan in Paris, a win-win micromobility solution is at hand.
Dockless E-Scooters & The Last Mile
The new plan is being hatched in Paris, where a 150-dock pilot project is about to begin with the Turkish electric scooter docking startup Duckt at the helm. The idea is to keep urban spaces clear of clutter and reduce theft and vandalism, while providing e-scooter rental firms with a platform for lowering their costs.
The idea is similar to the EV charging-plus-kiosk trend that appears to be taking off, but with an emphasis on leveraging existing street furniture rather than necessarily having to build all new infrastructure.
Duckt envisions street lamps, advertising boards, and bus station shelters to begin with. The bus station angle is especially relevant because Duckt is focusing on the “last mile” challenge which the e-scooter leasing business seeks to address.
The last mile refers to a stubborn obstacle for urban mass transportation planners, which is what to do with passengers after they climb off the bus or train and still have a mile or so of walking before they reach their destination.
The E-Scooter Solution To The Last Mile Problem
The last mile gets plenty of blame for the unwillingness of commuters to leave their cars at home and take mass transit. Solving that problem won’t solve all urban mass transit issues but it will certainly help.
Anyway, that’s what Duckt is banking on. Paris is on track to ban diesel cars by 2024 and gasmobiles by 2030, and the public already seems to be gearing up for a big switch. Last year the micromobility firm Lime surveyed e-scooter use in Paris and took note of a significant surge.
Part of that surge could be a temporary blip related to the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s a safe bet that some newly minted fans will continue relying on e-scooters after the crisis fades.
Marc-Antoine Réol, Country Manager France at Duckt, seems confident that the upward trend will be a lasting one.
“The aim of this experimentation is to provide a last-mile infrastructure, which links public transport and shared micro-mobility,” he says.
Don’t just take their word for it. Duckt is getting an assist from the EU clean tech accelerator EIT InnoEnergy and they are all over the idea like white on rice, partly due to their focus on clean power.
“Micro mobility is in the driver’s seat as Paris and other major cities like Barcelona and London decarbonize,” explains Hortense Becheux, who holds the position of Sales Manager France at EIT InnoEnergy. “We think DUCKT offers something truly unique — the solution is built to be adaptable and green. This means it can even generate its own power through solar options.”
Wait, E-Scooters That Don’t Lay Traps For Pedestrians?
The challenge for e-scooter fans is to avoid the whack-a-mole of getting cars out of the way but replacing them with hordes of evil two-wheeled menaces.
“This initiative supports the mayor’s desire to reduce the use of cars in town to a minimum and the city’s ambitious ’15-minute city’ project which aims to give Parisians the full use of their streets back,” emphasizes Réol.
Cagri Selcuklu, co-founder of Duckt, recently elaborated upon the concept in an article over at Urban Mobility Daily.
In addition to identifying use and control of public spaces, he cited the bottom line issue of operational efficiency. That includes avoiding the potential of lawsuits over safety hazards.
“Vandalism and theft of vehicles can be quite widespread, and pedestrian safety is of course another major issue at hand,” he wrote. “While operators do care about making a positive change in people’s lives, operational costs can be prohibitive.”
As a business specializing in docks for e-scooters, Selcuklu also had plenty to say about docklessness.
“Dockless solutions present an opportunity to solve a great deal of first/last mile problems, offering a high level of freedom of movement. But this freedom comes at a cost,” he wrote.
Pedestrian safety is part of the problem, but there is much more to the story.
“Although these vehicles [such as e-scooters] can potentially be found anywhere, they are not necessarily where they ought to be. Next to bus and metro stops or any other transport/commercial hub is where passengers need a first/last mile solution the most,” he wrote.
One Of These E-Scooter Docks Is Not Like The Others
Duckt will have 12 months in Paris to assess its solution, which combines some of the freedom of docklessness with a modular, standardized system. That means anyone, on any scooter, can hook up and plug in.
“Our solution is designed to allow for the storage, securing and charging of 20 scooters streetside in the same space that one car would take up. All it takes to implement a Duckt charging station is a standard grid connection and 4 simple bolts to fix the station to a flat concrete or asphalt surface. Our adaptors make every scooter you see on the street suitable to use the system,” Selcuklu explained.
Onward & Upward For E-Scooters
If all goes according to plan, Duckt will add Paris to its growing list of fans, which as of this writing tops 10 cities and seven different e-scooter manufacturers.
That’s a pretty quick start for a firm that only popped up on the radar a year or so ago, but Selcuklu points to the three co-founders’ cumulative total of 35 years experience in mobility, supply chain, and Internet-of-Things as the force behind Duckt’s “Infrastructure as a Service” business model.
Here at CleanTechnica we’re super on board with the EV trend, but e-scooters and other forms of tiny two-wheeled travel are also catching our eye. Selcuklu has a point when he expands upon the idea that cities need to “adopt sustainable modalities that put citizens, not cars, at the heart of urban mobility.”
Take a look at New York and other cities where COVID-19 adjustments have enabled local restaurants and shops to take over adjacent parking spots, and entire streets have been closed for people to enjoy. Those semi-permanent arrangements build upon a long history of temporary “play street” and street fair closures. In some cases businesses can benefit when streets are closed to cars. Property values can also increase, which adds more fuel to the anti-car fire.
That’s why Duckt’s point of putting 20 e-scooters in the space of one car should give urban planners food for thought. It could be that a knock ’em down, drag ’em out fight over urban EV charging infrastructure lays ahead, pitting electric car stakeholders against e-scooter stakeholders.
Or maybe they can compromise. Who knows!
When last heard from, Duckt was looking into enlisting cities in North America. Hold on to your hats.
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Photo (cropped): Courtesy of Duckt.