Paris is considering an all-out ban on the insanely popular rental electric scooters in the coming weeks, with backers of the plan saying that they clog up the streets and sidewalks, freak out pedestrians, and aren’t even that green due to their “very short life.”
The capital city is home to a fleet of 15,000 rental e-scooters, with 1.2 million riders last year, most of them residents of Paris. Yet the city’s three electric scooter operators, Lime, Dott, and Tier, are all up for license renewal in February 2023. But whether or not that will happen is yet to be determined, with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo expected to announce her decision in the coming weeks.
The big concern is, of course, safety. Paris had 337 registered accidents tied to e-scooters in the first eight months of this year, from 247 over the same period last year. Last year, an Italian woman walking along the Seine died tragically when an e-scooter carrying two women struck her. Another high-profile case involved the death of two teenagers on an e-scooter in Lyon in August of this year, which led to that city banning e-scooter use for riders under 18.
The operators, however, argue that Paris is already the strictest, most regulated city in the world in regards to their business, with only three operators allowed in the city under three-year contracts, with automatic tracking and speed limits as low as 10 km in some areas, and down to zero as you wheel into a public park. Paris allows e-scooters on bike lanes only, and only one person can legally ride at a time – although this isn’t often adhered to.
Plus Lime, Dott, and Tier say that pointing the finger at them isn’t fair, since rental e-scooters only account for a small proportion of accidents, and represent fewer fatal accidents on a per-ride basis compared to mopeds or cars. France also accounts for Europe’s largest market in e-scooters purchased for personal use, with more than 900,000 e-scooters sold last year – so eliminating rental e-scooters won’t solve the problem.
A supporter of the ban, David Belliard, the Green deputy mayor in charge of transport and public spaces, told Le Parisien that “there has been progress, but it’s still complicated: for example, in parking spots, you can find electric scooters strewn across the ground and people obliged to climb over them, including elderly people.”
While, as a longtime resident of Paris, anecdotally, it’s hard to argue with this observation, but companies say that they are doing more and better every day thanks to geo-tracking software – they cite that 96% of their devices are parked where they belong, and company patrol operators cruise the city to reposition e-scooters gone astray, or that have tumbled over in their parking spots. In addition, Paris scooter companies are exploring ways to prevent more than one person from riding a scooter at a time, including using sensors and ID checks.
What about the short shelf-life of a rental scooter? Paris, like most major European cities, was a very early adopter of rental e-scooters, and early versions were more easily broken and discarded, with the bottom of the Seine River being a popular destination for unused e-scooters in Paris. But times have changed, say the e-scooter operators, with devices now weighing around 30 kg compared to 10 kg. Still, companies say they still pay professional divers to fish e-scooters out of the Seine once a month.
Hopefully Hidalgo, too, will not discount how popular e-scooters are, especially among younger Parisians, with one trip being taken every four seconds in Paris. A recent Ipsos survey, commissioned by Dott, Lime, and Tier, found that 88% of city residents have considered e-scooters a part of their daily transport, with more than half saying they’d already used one, with 82% of this group being aged 18-34.