E-scooters: The new way to get around Russian cities?

E-scooters: The new way to get around Russian cities?
08 November 2021

First popular in the US, e-scooters have become increasingly widespread across America and European capitals in the past decade. However, this new trend reached Russia slightly later, only becoming popular in the past few years. Western companies failed to infiltrate the country’s market; instead, Russian start-ups have dominated the e-scooter sphere in Russia, namely ‘Whoosh’ and ‘U-rent’.

VTB Bank and Sberbank recently heavily invested in both of these companies, voicing their support and trust that the phenomenon will stay and continue to grow in popularity across Russia. Indeed, electric scooters enable you to travel 5x faster than a pedestrian, and 3x faster than a car or public transport during rush hour. Furthermore, due to covid, many are keen to use individual modes of transport in order to avoid spreading or catching the virus. Data shows that the majority of riders use e-scooters to commute to work – it is often a good way to get from the metro to work or home. However, most people agree that it is more of a summer activity, and that it is too cold to scoot between November and April. In some cities, the service stops altogether during winter.

Whoosh was founded in 2019, and over 3.5 million Russians have used their service so far. The company now owns around 30,000 shareable e-scooters, which are spread across the country. Their scooters are available in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk Academic Town, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Tyumen, Tula, Kazan, Izhevsk, Yekaterinburg, Sochi, Krasnodar and Voronezh. U-rent e-scooters can be used in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Sochi, Krasnaya Polyana, Anapa, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don. 

How do you use an e-scooter?

  • Download the app (either whoosh or Urent) on your smartphone, and register to create an account, including a payment method.
  • You can use the map on the app to see where the nearest e-scooter is located. You can also see the rental rate and battery level, and can even reserve a scooter for free while you walk towards it.
  • When you reach a scooter, scan the QR code on the handlebar, and you’re ready to set off!
  • Once you get the hang of it, riding an e-scooter is simple – there is a button to hold to go, and a break to stop.
  • When you’ve finished your ride, you need to find a parking spot (also shown on the app’s map). The app will show you the cost of your ride and how much battery it used.

Russian e-scooters

In the above picture, you can see what appears on the Whoosh app when you open it – the small clock icons show all of the e-scooters located nearby, with information about the scooter’s price, charge and serial number when you click on it. If you press the large yellow circle, you can scan the scooter’s QR code, select it, and then set off. 

So if you’re looking for a new way to get around the city, why not give e-scooting a go. It’s the perfect mode of transport for a journey that is just a bit too far to walk, has no clear route on public transport, and isn’t worth driving.

By Alice, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz in St. Petersburg

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