Wednesday 30 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 30/8/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

In wheel danger

E-scooters were always an answer to a question that presumably nobody had asked: “What would be an efficient way of making life for pedestrians miserable at best, dangerous at worst?” They have been a blight upon every city on which they have descended. In use, they are a nuisance and a menace. When stationary, they’re ugly and obstructive litter.

By declaring a stop to this nonsense, Paris has set what will hopefully be a resonant example. City authorities have confirmed that they intend to abide by a yay or nay referendum on rented scooters held earlier this year, in which 90 per cent of an admittedly small turnout voted for their abolition. Operators Lime, Dott and Tier have until this Friday to get their 15,000 pestilential contraptions, known locally as trottinettes, off the boulevards. It has to be hoped that this is only a start – regrettably, it remains legal to ride privately owned e-scooters in Paris while Lime, Dott and Tier plan to deploy their machines to pester other French cities instead.

In the past few years I have seen – and despaired of – several formerly great cities for strollers and saunterers turn into something akin to roller-derby rinks. Footpaths are aswarm with these swift, silent and therefore dangerous conveyances, which are invariably piloted with abandon by the cohort of hooligans that seem drawn to them.

Not least in London, which has the worst of both worlds: legal e-scooter rentals and police who are disinterested in making any serious effort to enforce the law that theoretically forbids privately owned e-scooters from public thoroughfares. According to UK government figures in 2022, e-scooters killed one pedestrian, seriously injured 60 and slightly injured 173 more. If my own experience is anything to go by, the unreported numbers of smaller collisions, angry confrontations and sudden evasive actions to avoid becoming another of these casualties are exponentially greater. It all adds up to a huge, unnecessary and – as Paris has hopefully begun to demonstrate – readily vanquished plague.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters

Affairs / China & Taiwan

Face value

China may have just banned the import of Taiwanese mangoes but the two sides have had some fruitful exchanges this summer, including the travel of Taiwanese athletes to Chengdu for the World University Games (albeit under the “Chinese Taipei” banner). This week, Taipei’s mayor, Chiang Wan-an (pictured), is visiting his counterpart in Shanghai for a city-level meeting – the first time the annual conference is being held in-person since 2019.

The Shanghai-Taipei City Forum began in 2010 as a channel to promote cross-strait trade but grew in political significance after Tsai Ing-wen's election as president in 2016 prompted Beijing to freeze direct communications between the two governments. Increasing the number of face-to-face exchanges will be an important release valve ahead of Taiwan’s elections in January, which are a traditional flashpoint. Tsai has recently extended an olive branch to Beijing by announcing an end to travel restrictions imposed on Chinese businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Tour groups will also be welcome, provided that China allows them to enter. As ever, when it comes to cordiality in the Taiwan Strait, the ball is firmly in Beijing’s court.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Finland

Snow place like home

In an effort to enhance its Nordic flight connections, Finnair will launch a new Arctic Express service, connecting Helsinki, Rovaniemi and Tromsø. The new winter routes will commence on 2 December and operate twice a week, with the airline’s 68-seater ATR 72 (pictured) set to make the journeys. In preparation for the Christmas period, the flights will offer a direct connection between the hometown of Santa Claus and the gateway to the Northern Lights.

“Tourists currently have to drive along terribly icy mountain roads or take the train to Lapland, from where there is then no link onto Norway,” says Petri Burtsoff, Monocle’s Helsinki correspondent. “You would have to undertake a 5km hike across the border, followed by another train on the Norwegian side. Holidaymakers will now have a much more accessible way into northern Norway and Finland, right before the most magical time of year.”

Business / Australia

Breath of fresh air

Andy Evans is the co-founder and CEO of Oceanex Energy, a leading offshore wind developer, with turbines off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. After founding the continent’s first offshore wind farm, the Star of the South, in 2012, he has developed a portfolio of projects across the energy and resources sector. Here, he tells The Monocle Minute about his entrepreneurial journey and his self-funded documentary, Planet Wind.

How did it all start?
I had a lot of curiosity and was searching for something new to do. My inquisitiveness stretches into everything. The need to establish an offshore wind industry, which is what I did with two partners in 2012, was very much driven by the desire to make the most of the opportunities that Australia has to offer.

What is the scale of these opportunities?
When we started the company, we realised that Australia was going to come up against some challenges, particularly in regard to electricity generation. Where I’m from in Victoria, about 70 per cent of electricity comes from unexportable brown coal. Now is the chance for renewable resources to shine. The majority of the Australia’s population lives near the coast, which positions offshore wind farms as a much closer energy source than coal mines, which can be up to 70km away from the water. We recognised that there was a gap in the market and that we could offer quicker energy access to the grid.

Tell us about your forthcoming documentary.
It’s about a fascination with the planetary force of wind – something that we live with every day and is generally seen as a foe rather than a friend. But it is not only about the industry. We explore the idea that without harnessing wind power to sail across Earth, the world as we know it today never would have existed.

For Monocle’s full interview with Andy Evans, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio, which is out now.

Image: Kyle Johnson

Cartography / Seattle

Best-laid plans

As summer winds down and cooler breezes begin to blow, hikes are finally starting to seem more appealing. And if you’re in the US, there is nowhere better to look for guidance than from Green Trails Maps. Based in Seattle, this 50-year-old company sets itself apart with rigorously researched hard copies. In fact, its cartographers hike many of the trails themselves. “Anyone who spends a lot of time in rural areas knows that a lot can go south with devices,” says Alan Coburn, company president since 1993.

By contrast, Green Trails Maps prides itself on clear typefaces, careful colour choices and atypical but user-friendly features, such as including both distance and elevation at trail junctions. With 161 maps currently tackling six western US states and 70,000 units sold a year, the brand is looking to expand and has eight new releases planned for spring 2024. Offering traditional, visually pleasing cartography, Green Trails Maps also provides a freeing sense of security when hikers are out in the wild. After all, their books are “solar-powered, no batteries required.”

For more on Green Trails Maps and other business insights, buy a copy of the September issue of Monocle, which is out now.

Monocle Radio / The Stack

10 years of Indiecon and ‘Linseed’

We celebrate a decade of the independent publishing festival Indiecon and Linseed magazine makes supper with a single ingredient.

Monocle Films / Transport

Inside the airship industry

Airships, once tipped to be the future of flight, are now largely used as costly billboards that drift across cities or over major sporting events. We travelled to Friedrichshafen in Germany to take a peek inside one of the world’s few commercial operations and explore this niche area of aviation.


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