Bolt looks to boost Bolt Mobility in Japan and beyond

Bolt looks to boost Bolt Mobility in Japan and beyond

Observer writer

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

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Jamaica's internationally renowned sprint legend and co-founder of Bolt Mobilty, an American firm that seeks to revolutionise transportation through “simple, safe and sustainable solutions”, is introducing the mobility company's line of scooters to the Japanese market.

Bolt intends to use his influence as a world famous celebrity to convince regulators that the environmental benefits of the scooters are worth loosening existing regulations that put some restrictions on their use in Japan.

The Bolt Mobility launch took place on Friday, November 15 in Tokyo, with the aim of restricting scooter rentals to private land where they will be free from current traffic regulations that dictate they must carry license plates, riders must have a motorcycle license and they can only be driven on roads.

In July of this year, Bolt told Yahoo Finance's The Final Round' ,“I've done a lot of work when it comes to global warming. For me, that was a big part of the fact that I wanted to be a part of the e-scooter business.”

That commitment to the environment is what the record-breaking olympian hopes Japanese regulators will see as Bolt Mobility representatives are currently putting forward the case to them that e-scooters decrease emissions by decreasing traffic congestion.

While scooters are a growing worldwide trend and provide environmental benefits they do create other problems. The proliferation of scooters in many cities has resulted in clutter and congestion on sidewalks where their use can be a nuisance to pedestrians.

Their use on public roads can be fraught with danger from much larger vehicles and Reuters reported that “Paris has tightened rules on where scooters can be ridden following two deaths and scores of injuries”, while “an elderly cyclist died after colliding with an e-scooter in Singapore in September”.

The result is that different cities have different approaches to the vehicles, with some allowing them and some banning them.

“Now, governments, communities and businesses — even the scooter companies themselves — are playing catchup on finding the right rules for scooters, and how to enforce them,” related an article from CNN Business in August of this year. “Debates have emerged over when and where scooters should be ridden, and if the form of scooters needs to evolve, with bigger wheels, brighter lights or even a seat.”

Bolt Mobility has not let restrictions and challenges to the use of scooters stop their plans for expansion in the past. The company entered the New York market even though attempts to legalise scooters were still underway.

In Paris, where they launched in May, they entered an overcrowded market where scooters were stirring up controversy with authorities threatening a temporary ban if operators didn't keep the vehicles off pavements. The French want to limit the speed of scooters to 20 kilometres per hour and are planning to only issue two or three licenses to operate in a market where there are already 12 scooter start-ups.

Bolt Mobility also launched in the UK where scooters are not yet legal but nevertheless are becoming popular.

“I know it's not legal here in London, but that's what we're working on,” online publication TechRadar reported Usain Bolt as saying at the UK launch earlier this year. “We're here to show you how we can help, and bring awareness, to let you know that this is a solution for all the traffic.”

E-scooters are seen as solutions to what is called the “last mile” problem in commutes. When people commute, the distance from the bus stop or train station to their destination can be a challenge being too close to drive to or too far to walk to. E-scooters can solve that problem.

Bolt Mobility is betting that the solutions and environmental benefits provided by e-scooters far outweigh the negatives and that as they expand to new cities around the world this will help them overcome any regulatory challenges.

“We're still talking and trying to figure out how to push forward and do better things for the environment, because that's where it started,” news agency, Reuters, quoted Usain Bolt as saying after the Tokyo launch. “This is the future.”

In Japan, where the use of scooters is limited to private land, Bolt Mobility hopes “to be operating on 40 university campuses by the end of 2020”, according to the news agency.

Reuters also pointed out, however, that even as Japanese consumers begin to eye scooters being promoted in their country, and even as Lime, the largest e-scooter company in the world, recently joined the Japanese Lobby Group, Microbility Promotion Council, regulatory changes could still take a while despite the support of a number of government officials.

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