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Cyprus wobbles on electric scooters

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More electric scooters are spotted whizzing through the streets of European capitals; this eco-friendly trend has found its way to Cyprus but not without hurdles to navigate.

A US firm eyeing expansion to Cyprus promises to change the transportation system and Cypriot habits overnight, but it has a few legal anomalies to iron out first.

“It’s time to rethink what mobility should look like; it’s time to rethink what sustainability looks like, moving from car-centric to people-centric,” said the operations manager of Lime Micromobility.

Lime’s operations manager for Greece and Bulgaria, Petko Anchev, told the Financial Mirror the company pledges its fleet of electric scooters would go a long way in making Cyprus’ transportation system greener and more people orientated.

Anchev said Lime would be importing a fleet of 1,000 to 1,500 scooters to Cyprus, offering Cypriots and tourists an alternative way of getting around busy roads.

Across the 120 cities Lime is operating for over 3.5 years or so, some 50 million car trips were avoided as people opted to hop on one of its electric scooters.

Lime Micromobility has introduced a scooter-sharing system in more than 120 cities across 30 countries.

“According to Lime’s records, some 200 million trips have been taken with one of our electric scooters.

“Plus, people wanting to get to their office, which could be near enough to make travelling not worth the cost, could hop on a scooter.

“Users do not need to go through the hassle of trying to find somewhere to park,” said Anchev.

The car trips saved so far translate into 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

He argued Cyprus’ tourism would also benefit, as scooters are popular among tourists who prefer to have freedom of mobility when they are on holiday.

Cyprus, especially its coastal cities, are ideal for scooters as the surface is mainly flat, while the weather is mostly fine.

“They don’t have to spend too much money to get around, while a scooter gives them the freedom to travel around, discovering the cities they are visiting,” said Anchev.

“In Europe, everybody loves scooters.

“Tourists coming to Cyprus from Europe will probably already be familiar with the scooter-sharing system and will even have the application needed to rent one already downloaded on their phones.”

On average, trips last for about 10 minutes. When renting a scooter, the user pays an initial €1 fee to unlock it and pays by the minute.

A 10-minute trip should not cost more than €2-3.

Anchev argued a scooter sharing system would be beneficial not only for the environment and users’ pockets but also for municipalities’ budgets in which Lime will be operating.

He said Lime is offering to compensate municipalities for the use of public space, “just like restaurants and cafes are paying for taking up space on pavements and squares”.

“We also plan to carry social responsibility programs by offering tutorials to people on how to use scooters safely and will be handing out helmets.”

Legal obstacles

Scooters are deemed safe as they have a maximum speed of 25 km per hour, which can be regulated to be lower.

Currently, Lime is campaigning to convince municipalities of the benefits of scooter sharing and their safety, but mayors appear sceptical.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Larnaca Mayor and head of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, Andreas Vyras, said there is hesitancy over allowing scooters to roam the pavements or the streets as there is no legal framework to regulate their use.

“There is no legal framework, categorising these vehicles, designating where they should be driven, on the roads or pavements.

“Neither is there a framework covering what happens if a user gets involved in an accident involving a pedestrian or another vehicle,” said Vyras.

He confirmed municipalities are currently in consultations with Lime while referring the matter to the Transport Ministry and parliament for further advice.

Anchev said that they had proposed an MOU, as an interim solution, according to which Lime will take out insurance covering all users and third-party damages in case of accidents.

“Cyprus is not the only EU state without a legislative framework covering scooters. What we want is to sit down with municipalities and find a mutually beneficial understanding.”

Lime is also prepared to launch a pilot scheme with a small number of scooters in each city to allow municipalities to see in practice the issues and the benefits of a sharing system.

How does renting work?

One can locate the nearest scooter using a mobile phone application (Lime – Your Ride anytime) downloadable from Google Playstore or Apple Appstore equivalent.

Once a scooter is located, the user will then scan the QR code on the scooter.

To pay for the rental, registered customers must have money in their account; otherwise, they can add funds online.

Once the trip is over, the user parks the scooter in a way that does not obstruct passersby and then locks the scooter using their application.

The eScooters travel at a speed of 20km/h with a range of 30 kilometres.

Applications will indicate the charge of each scooter and how far the user can go.

Lime Micromobility is an American transportation company based in San Francisco, USA.

It runs electric scooters, electric bikes, standard pedal bikes, electric mopeds, and car-sharing systems in various cities worldwide.