Beam Scoots Straight In To Kuala Lumpur - But Will It Find A Place Among Commuters and Policy Makers?

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Beam Scoots Straight In To Kuala Lumpur But Will It Find A Place Among Commuters - and Lawmakers?

E-scooter sharing service startup Beam aims to address the missing link to making your last mile hassle free. We speak to VP of Corporate Affairs Christopher Hilton.

Take a stroll around Kuala Lumpur streets. It’s more likely now than before that you’ll find someone on a scooter, strolling past pavements amongst the bustling city traffic.

Electric scooter sharing service has flooded cities around the world, and while the idea has yet taken off meaningfully in Malaysia, it has vast potential to help address personal mobility in daily urban commute - offering more cost-effective, faster, and environmentally friendly last-mile transportation options.

“Lots of short distance trips could be served by something other than just walking. There is a gap that needs to be filled and e-scooters is one that can fill it,”

In some countries, e-scooters are used for goods delivery too.

Singapore-based startup Beam is an e-scooter sharing company that is making inroads into Malaysia.

While the service's official launch took place last week, Beam's purple and black scooters have been available in pockets of location in Kuala Lumpur since early this year.

“We look specifically to each city we enter and try to design an operating area with an understanding for the usage of the e-scooters,” says Beam Corporate Affairs Vice President, Christopher Hilton at the launch.

“Lots of short distance trips could be served by something other than just walking. There is a gap that needs to be filled and e-scooters is one that can fill it,” he adds.

Beam is founded by Deb Gangopadhyay and Alan Jiang, former Asian chief for Chinese bike-sharing giant Ofo.

But after the dismaying retreat of Ofo’s bike sharing platform in Malaysia, will Beam’s shared e-scooter be the urban mobility solution city dwellers need?

“One of the challenges bike shares had was that they introduced too many vehicles and didn’t have appropriate staff. They didn’t have a strong enough organisation to understand how to move the vehicles around,” says Hilton, when asked to weigh in on why bike-sharing did not take off in Malaysia.

“We increase when we see demand. What we want to show is that people are riding the vehicles - and if they want more, we increase our supply,” adds Hilton.

“We want to grow our footprint appropriately and at the pace that makes sense.”

Beam - Growing in a Controlled Pace is Vital for Operations

About 250 units of Beam scooters are for rent, largely located in Bukit Bintang and Mont Kiara areas. Since the service was rolled out in January, it has registered some 15,000 rides.

The service is operated via an app, available for Android and iOS devices. “They will pay RM2.50 to start with, then RM0.30 cents a minute, with no deposit required,” says Hilton. The scooters are equipped with GPS tracking.

While users won’t have to dock the scooters in anywhere specific, they will be charged an RM5 ‘pick up fee’ should they park out of the designated area.

Addressing the issue of safety - incidences of e-scooters caught on fire made headlines recently - Hilton says the company has adequate measures in place to ensure they are safe to use.

“Our vehicles have the highest fire safety certification in the industry. So, concerns about fire safety are eliminated,” says Hilton. In addition, consumers will be covered by general liability and personal insurance while using the service.

The vehicles, according to Hilton, are also checked regularly; they are hauled in for maintenance after every 300 rides.

Beam - Giving Importance on Safety for Riders

The biggest threat to Beam’s viability, however, is not in the bike itself but rather safety fears concerning the use of the motorised vehicle.

Globally, lawmakers worry that scooters are too dangerous following accidents, some involving fatality.

“We want to work with communities to implement some of these features and to make sure it fits where Beam is being operated.”

Peru has issued a nationwide ban on e-scooters from sidewalks and pedestrians. France recently places curbs on e-scooter usage in cities while Barcelona has banned it entirely.

In Singapore and some cities in the United States, lawmakers are mulling restrictions on the vehicles which are deemed clogging pavements where pedestrians and cyclists vie for the same limited street space.

So while cities encourage more environmentally forms of transportation that will cut air pollution, it remains to be seen if e-scooters will find its place among commuters - and policymakers long term.

“We want to work with communities to implement some of these features and to make sure it fits where Beam is being operated.”

“Our growth plans for Kuala Lumpur are high, we are really excited about micro-mobility sharing and we have just started, so we are going to continue to look into expanding,” says Hilton.

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