Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Careem looks to launch e-scooter rentals in Abu Dhabi

The company is in talks with transport authorities after recently buying bike company Cyacle

Genesis Martinez rides an e-scooter from Dubai Marina to her workplace at Madinat Jumeirah. Victor Besa / The National
Genesis Martinez rides an e-scooter from Dubai Marina to her workplace at Madinat Jumeirah. Victor Besa / The National

Careem is in talks to run one of Abu Dhabi's first e-scooter rental services after the capital legalised the leasing of the vehicles.

The ride-share company - which was bought by Uber for more than $3 billion this year - said it sees two-wheel devices as the future of "micro-mobility".

“We have been interested in the micro-mobility space for a very long time,” Bassel Al Nahlaoui, managing director of Careem in the Gulf, told The National.

“Careem acquired Cyacle, an Abu Dhabi bike-sharing company, early this year marking our entry to the space before the announcement."

Mr Al Nahlaoui said the company was "currently in discussions with DoT [Department of Transport] and we will be able to disclose more information in the future".

“We see residents across the UAE owning their own scooters to cover their last mile transport needs from and to public transport stations, so the demand definitely exists,” he said.

We see residents across the UAE owning their own scooters to cover their last mile transport needs from and to public transport stations, so the demand definitely exists

Bassel Al Nahlaoui, Careem

Circ, another e-scooter company, said on Thursday that it had already started setting up e-scooters for rent, in coordination with the city's transport department.

With its grid system and growing number of pedestrian and cycle paths, the capital's downtown area looks better suited to e-scooters than Dubai, which banned rentals in March while it decided how to regulate their use. Rental firms KIWIride, Qwikly, and Skoot Mobility all ceased operations.

Operators see the two-wheelers as an ideal "last mile" method of transport, meaning they can be carried on to trains and metros and used to reach work or home or hired from outside public transport hubs.

Cities across Europe have recently embraced the vehicles, with Berlin, Germany, among the latest to allow them last month. But other countries have been cautious, with France banning their use on roads in October.

For Abu Dhabi's six to 12 month trial, the scooters can only be used on the Corniche and Khalifa Street, which runs parallel.

“They can even help make mass transit more attractive, so more people will choose it over driving their cars," said Mr Al Nahlaoui.

"In turn, this can reduce traffic congestion, parking issues, and other urban problems.”

A woman rides on an electric scooter in Berlin on 18 July, 2019. The city has embraced the scooters since they were legalised in June. EPA
A woman rides on an electric scooter in Berlin on 18 July, 2019. The city has embraced the scooters since they were legalised in June. EPA

Careem would mainly target “safe areas or safe streets” where the speed is around 40km/hr to introduce the e-scooters.

Abu Dhabi, which has restricted speeds to 20kph for the trial and not set pricing structures, said they should be available to hire for a "nominal" fee.

Transport authorities have so far not stated whether helmets and other safety gear will be required.

Dubai is yet to allow e-scooter rental companies to operate again, but it has not taken any action against private e-scooter owners, who appear to be in a grey area.

Genesis Martinez, rides her e-scooter to work every day from Torch Tower in Dubai Marina to Madinat Jumeirah on Jumeirah Beach Road - a distance of about 6km.

“My job is near but not close enough to walk, and it is very expensive to pay a taxi every day," said the restaurant supervisor.

She has saved about Dh1,200 per month on taxis since buying her scooter.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, August 1, 2019. Genesis Martinez, owner of an e-scooter at Dubai. Victor Besa/The National Section: NA Reporter: Haneen Dajani
Genesis says she bought a helmet after a recent bad accident. Victor Besa / The National

“And first of all, it is lots of fun, and safe because I use the cycling route so I don’t need to ride on the main street.

“I also use it to go shopping or the movies. I put a backpack on and hop on it, without having to worry about parking or tickets. It has made my life easy and fun, which is why I really enjoy it.”

She has recently become more safety conscious after a painful accident and bought a helmet.

“I was trying to overtake another e-scooter and I fell near to the ramp," said the 25-year-old from Mexico. "It was very bad, I was severely bruised.”

When the rental ban was introduced in March, Ms Martinez said she “got scared” and stopped driving her e-scooter for a while. But the authorities have not taken any action against careful riders.

“I heard something about it being banned for rental scooters only, not the owners - no policeman has stopped me yet," she said.

“Now I am completely independent; it is like I have my own car.”

Derek Stark, from Scotland, a friend of hers, said he would rather wait until e-scooters were completely legal before taking one out.

“I just play around with it at home at the moment,” said the 26-year-old fitness trainer.

“I think it would benefit everyone if Dubai fully legalised it, many people would be able to use it for short trips.

“Especially for me because I go back and forth between clients. Some of them are in nearby areas, so it would be much more convenient if I can just take the scooter and not worry about parking and petrol.”

Updated: August 12, 2019 10:06 AM

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