After a tough start, a new e-scooter business is speeding towards success
As the quarantine is lifted in stages, Englishman Steve Hewitt has been able to get back to launching his new business, ScootKyiv. Offering a fun new way to scoot around the landmarks and backstreets of Ukraine’s stunning capital, it’s a must for visitors, newbies, and old hands alike.
“Two days after our first paying customers, we went into lockdown,” explains Steve, smiling, in the electric scooter hire shop he had only just finished refurbishing before the coronavirus outbreak changed the world.
After studying similar operations in other central European capital cities, Steve is confident of success in Kyiv because it offers “simply the most beautiful backdrop” of all the places he’s looked at. Indeed, the wall of the office (which is located right in the heart of Kyiv, just off Kreshchatyk) is decorated with artists’ impressions of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Now, however, is not the time to chat. Now is the time to get out on the scooters and experience a tour for myself.
I’m introduced to my guide, Marusya, who takes me through the safety briefing. She shows me the hand signals she’ll be using, insists that I stay behind her at all times, and shows me the controls on my handlebars. It all looks pretty familiar: in fact, an e-scooter is essentially a greener alternative to a standard motorbike. In no time at all, we’re tweaking back the accelerators and we’re away.
Revolution and rebuilding
First stop: Maidan, and a moment to reflect on the events that have taken place here. We whizz up Tarasa Shevchenka and onto Mykhailivskyi lane; both are nice, quiet, and relatively traffic-free. Up on Mykhailivska Ploshcha, as we park next to the gleaming golden domes, Marusya explains that the monastery was demolished during the anti-religious Soviet years, only to be rebuilt in the image of the original and reopened in 1999.
After a spin around the park on Volodymyrska Hill (and the viewpoint the Kyiv Post once called “the best kissing spot in the city”), Marusya manages to take me into uncharted territory, a rare occurrence for this longtime Kyiv resident. Just off Andriyivskyi uzviz (or ‘Kyiv’s Montmartre’) is a street I’ve never been on before, offering a superb view of Podil. Incidentally, tackling Andriyivskyi by scooter makes for a very pretty (though quite bumpy) descent.
The wide open, pedestrianised area of Kontraktova Ploscha allows for the most important experiment for any new mode of transport: to find out how fast this thing goes. ScootKyiv’s printed materials claim that the maximum speed is electronically limited to 35 km/h. If this is the case, my limiter must be switched off: with no need for brakes, the electronic display tells me that we hit… well, definitely more than 35. Getting carried away, I also break the rule about staying behind Marusya. I get back in line as we head down towards the river port and Poshtova Ploshcha, stopping to admire the golden, sandy beaches across the Dnipro river, where socially-distanced sun worshippers are enjoying the glorious weather.
Bridges and arches
Next, we head to the so-called Klitschko Bridge, the walkway commissioned and opened by the city’s mayor last year. The all-encompassing view from here explains why Steve has named this route ‘Essential Kyiv’. After passing the ‘friendship’ arch, built to symbolise the ‘unbreakable’ bond between the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, we hit the pavement next to the Philharmonic and branch off onto a glorious, quiet pathway leading up from the puppet theatre into Mariinsky Park. Feeling very comfortable with my machine by now, I keep it at full throttle all the way up, feeling that special thrill for the first time in years.
We disembark from the bikes to cross Lovers’ Bridge, where people clip initialled padlocks to the railings as a symbol of eternal love. At the start of the bridge is the famous monument to wartime lovers Luigi and Mokryna, whose story Marusya will surely tell to future guests.
Find your inner thrill seeker
Stopping for a breather next to the official residence of the President of Ukraine, it’s hard to believe our two-hour excursion is almost coming to an end. Time has truly flown. Nevertheless, between here and the ScootKyiv office are several hundred metres of flat, empty space; just enough to zip this cracking little machine up to the limit again.
There are four set tours currently on offer, but Steve and his team are dedicated to expanding the range of options available, to cover more of Kyiv’s best-kept secrets and well-known beauty spots. Custom tours can also be designed, or you can simply rent an e-scooter by the hour and explore independently. Whatever you choose, fun is guaranteed: it will be a treat not just for the eyes, but also for the thrill seeker in you.
Price: from 530 UAH for a 1-hour rental to 1 465 UAH for ‘The Full Kyiv’ (3 hours)
+380 63 657 1526