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Protesting technology by battling bikes and coning cars
Munich is gearing up to host a trade fair on the topic of mobility. Part of the city center has been blocked off for trade fair events and to make space for trying out e-bikes and e-scooters, as anyone who has walked past Odeonsplatz lately will know.
Germany, with its heavy-hitting automotive industry, is an obvious candidate to host the IAA Mobility trade fair this coming week to showcase all kinds of ways of getting around. It will focus especially on sustainability and cutting-edge technology with futuristic electric cars, e-scooters, and e-bikes to admire and test drive.
But Munich has a fraught history with such modes of transportation. The city got its first taste of e-bikes in 2018 with the O-Bike. Actually, it would be more accurate to say the city was force-fed with this bike, because overnight, thousands of these orange two-wheelers appeared on sidewalks, at train stations, and somehow also appeared on balconies, in garages and even bathtubs. All right, I got carried away here, but it is true that all of the sudden, the city was blanketed with them. But it turned out their Singaporean operator did not have a permit.
Maybe it was just an elaborate experiment to test the patience and tolerance of Munich residents, who normally stick to the rules and grumble in private. Not this time. Angered by the orange obstructions, they took revenge. On the bikes. Soon these orange e-contraptions could be seen jammed between bushes, lying prostrate at the bottom of the Isar River, and even dangling precariously from trees. Most of the time they looked as if they had gotten into a scuffle with someone — and lost — with bent frames or missing tires or handlebars.
The company took the hint. They packed up their bikes — or what remained of them — and left.
The city itself now manages fleets of both e-bikes and e-scooters. People’s aggressions have subsided and they now not just accept them, they use them, too. The bikes can be seen lined up neatly in racks at their home base, although you can still find scooters parked in the middle of the sidewalk, apparently by people who flunked scooter school and never…