The tragedy occurred as the U.K. reviews its e-scooter policy.
17 Jul, 2019FORTUNE.COM
When Emily Hartridge, a British YouTube star, died in a traffic accident in south London on Friday, it wasn’t just her high profile that drew attention—it was what she had been riding: an e-scooter.
The 35-year-old TV presenter and mental health advocate, who built a career off her YouTube series “10 Reasons Why,” was reportedly hit by a truck while riding the e-scooter in a roundabout in the neighborhood of Battersea. Her death was announced on her Instagram account.
Hers was the first reported fatal accident involving an e-scooter in the British capital. Less than 24 hours later, a 14-year-old boy was hit while riding an e-scooter in a south London suburb. He was left in critical condition.
It’s become a grim but familiar story: in Europe, e-scooters first appeared roughly a year ago, and since then, fatal accidents have been reported in Barcelona, Paris, and Sweden.
But the incidents in London on Friday had another twist. Far from being a city overrun with the rentable, free-floating e-scooters that have become ubiquitous in other European cities over the past year, e-scooters are relatively rare in London.
In fact, under U.K. law they’re largely illegal. That policy is now under review, but the recent accidents show London is facing some of the risks of the e-scooter boom—before its own has even begun.
For the exploding European e-scooter market, London is a large and potentially lucrative holdout.
The two biggest e-scooter companies, U.S.-based Lime and Bird, have both arrived in force in Europe in the last year, and both have plans to expand. Bird is currently in 14 cities in nine countries, and the company has said it would add 50 European cities to its footprint this summer, though it did not specify which cities it would target.
Lime, which operates in an estimated 39 cities in 18 countries, also confirmed it is expanding in Europe this summer, though it did not say by how many cities. In early July, the company launched its service in Oslo, Norway and Helsinki, Finland, and it has also recently entered the German hubs of Berlin, Cologne, and Hamburg.
Those companies are not alone, either: in Paris, one of the most crowded e-scooter markets in Europe, up to a dozen different companies offer rentable e-scooters, including Uber’s Jump service, the Netherland’s Dott, Germany’s Wind, and Sweden’s Voi. Europe’s other major holdout recently gave e-scooters the green light. After a debate in Parliament, Germany approved a bill in May to allow e-scooters.
But in the U.K., e-scooters are classified under laws for motor vehicles, subjecting them to the same standards for license plates as cars, for instance, and barring them from sidewalks. In effect, they are largely illegal. If caught on an e-scooter on public roads, a rider can be fined £300 ($375) and have points docked on his driver’s license. ...
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