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When Istanbul Becomes the Spiritual Home of Electric Scooters

Istanbul is not ideal for cycling.

Like San Francisco, Turkey’s largest city is a mountain city, but its population is 17 times that, and it is difficult to travel freely by pedaling. And driving can be even more difficult, as the road congestion here is the worst in the world.

Facing such a daunting transportation challenge, Istanbul is following other cities around the world by introducing a different form of transportation: electric scooters. The small form of transport can climb hills faster than a bicycle and travel around town without carbon emissions. In Turkey, health care costs related to urban air pollution account for 27% of total health care costs.

The number of electric scooters in Istanbul has grown to around 36,000 since they first hit the streets in 2019. Among the emerging micromobility companies in Turkey, the most influential is Marti Ileri Teknoloji AS, which is the first electric scooter operator in Turkey. The company operates more than 46,000 electric scooters, electric mopeds and electric bicycles in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey, and its app has been downloaded 5.6 million times.

“If you take all of these factors Taken together – traffic volume, expensive alternatives, lack of public transport, air pollution, taxi penetration (low) – it becomes obvious why we have such a need. This is a unique market, We can solve problems.”

In some European cities, a surge in the number of electric scooters has prompted local governments to consider how to regulate them. Paris responded to a hit-and-run incident by announcing the possibility of banning e-scooters from the road, although speed limits were later introduced. The measure in the Swedish capital Stockholm is to set a cap on the number of electric scooters. But in Istanbul, the early struggles were more about getting them on the road than managing them.

The industry has come a long way since Uktem first raised money for Marti.

Potential tech investors “laugh at me in my face,” he has said. Uktem, who was successful as chief operating officer at Turkish streaming TV service BluTV, initially raised less than $500,000. The company quickly ran out of early funding.

“I had to give up my house. The bank repossessed my car. I slept in an office for about a year,” he said. For the first few months, his sister and co-founder Sena Oktem supported the call center by herself while Oktem herself charged scooters outdoors.

Three and a half years later, Marti announced that it would have an implied enterprise value of $532 million by the time it merged with a special purpose acquisition company and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. While Marti is the market leader in Turkey’s micromobility market — and the subject of an antitrust investigation, which was only dropped last month — it’s not the only operator in Turkey. Two other Turkish companies, Hop and BinBin, have also started building their own e-scooter businesses.

“Our goal is to be an end-to-end transportation alternative,” said Uktem, 31. “Every time someone walks out of the house, you want them to find Marti’s app and look at it and say, ‘Oh, I’m going. 8 miles to that place, let me ride an e-bike. I’m going 6 miles, I can ride an electric moped. I’m going to the grocery store 1.5 miles, I can use an electric scooter.’”

According to McKinsey estimates, in 2021, Turkey’s mobility market, including private cars, taxis and public transport, will be worth 55 billion to 65 billion US dollars. Among them, the market size of shared micro-travel is only 20 million to 30 million US dollars. But analysts estimate that if cities such as Istanbul discourage driving and invest in infrastructure such as new bike lanes as planned, the market could grow to $8 billion to $12 billion by 2030. At present, Istanbul has about 36,000 electric scooters, more than Berlin and Rome. According to the micro-travel publication “Zag Daily”, the number of electric scooters in these two cities is 30,000 and 14,000 respectively.

Turkey is also figuring out how to accommodate e-scooters. Making room for them on Istanbul’s congested sidewalks is a challenge in itself, and a familiar situation in European and American cities such as Stockholm.

In response to complaints that electric scooters impede walking, especially for people with disabilities, Istanbul has launched a parking pilot that will open 52 new electric scooters in certain neighborhoods, according to the Turkish Free Press Daily News. Scooter parking. There were also issues with security, a local news agency reported. No one under the age of 16 can use the scooters, and the ban on multiple rides is not always followed.

Like many movers in the micromobility market, Uktem agrees that electric scooters are not the real problem. The real problem is that cars dominate cities, and sidewalks are one of the few places where hindsight can be shown.

“People have fully embraced how nasty and scary cars are,” he said. One-third of all trips by Marti vehicles are to and from the bus station.

Given the infrastructure focus on pedestrians and cyclists, Alexandre Gauquelin, a shared micromobility consultant, and Harry Maxwell, head of marketing at micromobility data firm Fluoro, wrote in a blog post. The upgrade is still in progress, and the acceptance of shared mobility in Turkey is still in its early stages. But they argue that the more cyclists there are, the more the government is motivated to design more.

“In Turkey, micromobility adoption and infrastructure appear to be a chicken-and-egg relationship. If political will aligns with micromobility adoption, shared mobility will certainly have a bright future,” they wrote.


Post time: Nov-29-2022