More than 500 e-scooters lying on the bottom of the Rhine in Cologne
An ingenious supplement to public transport, or an unnecessary eyesore littering the roads and pavements? The debate on e-scooters in Germany has been polarised ever since they were first introduced two years ago. A new media report is now likely to lend weight to the view that they cause nothing but mess.
Hundreds of e-scooters leaking battery chemicals in Rhine
Just two years ago, e-scooter fever took over Germany, as no fewer than eight firms brought their two-wheeled transporters to the federal republic. While some lauded them as a practical urban mobility solution, others perceived them as a mere fad, at best, if not a downright danger to public health and order.
Evidence of the nuisance - and even danger - caused by e-scooters has recently come to light in a new story from the broadcaster WDR, which reports that more than 500 e-scooters are now languishing at the bottom of the River Rhine in Cologne.
Markus Hambüchen, a construction diver who works on the Rhine, told WDR: “We find [e-scooters] wherever we work on the bottom of the Rhine. Before we can start working on quay bridges or bridge piers, we have to clear the mess out the way. I’m not talking about 10 or 20 scooters, but about hundreds lying in the Rhine,” he said.
And the problem is not just the fact that the scooters are littering the river bed. According to Hambütchen, some are starting to shed a concerning substance: “The battery casings on the scooters in the Rhine are leaking and chemicals are being released.”
Costs of retrieving scooters too high for companies?
Recently, Hambüchen says he received a call from a large scooter supplier, who wanted a cost estimate for recovering 500 electric scooters from around the Hohenzollern Bridge. But apparently the figure he quoted was too high. “The man said that, considering the costs, it was not worth getting the scooters out of the Rhine.” The company said it would instead only try to retrieve the scooters within easy reach - and not those in deeper areas with stronger currents.
Paul Kröfges, a water expert from the Association for Environment and Conservation told WDR that the behaviour was scandalous: “Toxic and dangerous chemicals are being released… The responsible environmental authorities cannot accept that. The Rhine supplies drinking water to around 30 million people in Europe.”
Two e-scooter providers have since reacted to the findings with specific changes. Bird and Voi have now imposed parking bans on the banks of the Rhine and on its bridges to prevent more scooters from ending up in the river. Customers will also no longer be able to end their journeys near the Rhine. According to WDR, Bird has said it will commission a specialist company to recover its scooters.
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