Paris votes on whether to ban e-scooters for hire

Paris votes on whether to ban e-scooters for hire
A woman rides a scooter in Paris in front of the Eiffel / AFP


Voters in Paris are set to decide Sunday on whether to banish electric scooters for rent from the streets of the French capital, which was a pioneer in adopting the divisive new form of urban transport.

The City of Light once welcomed companies such as Lime, Dott or Tier and their for-hire scooters that are popular among young people for covering short distances.

After a chaotic introduction in 2018, city authorities have progressively tightened regulations, creating designated parking zones, limiting the top speed and restricting the number of operators.

But their presence remains controversial, with pedestrians complaining about reckless driving while a spate of fatal accidents has highlighted the dangers of vehicles that can currently be hired by children as young as 12.

"Scooters have become my biggest enemy. I'm scared of them," Suzon Lambert, a 50-year-old teacher and Paris resident, told AFP. "Paris has become a sort of anarchy. There's no space any more for pedestrians."

Such views are likely to dominate in the 21 voting booths set up around the French capital on Sunday, with the exercise billed as a "public consultation" rather than a referendum by mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The pro-cycling Socialist leader announced the vote in January to settle the issue of whether they should be allowed.

She favours a ban, calling the devices a "source of tension and worry" for Parisians in an interview with AFP on Thursday.

The consultation will not affect privately owned electric scooters, of which 700,000 were sold nationwide last year, according to transport ministry figures.

Around 100,000 journeys are completed each day in France on rented e-scooters in around 200 towns and cities.


- Watched abroad -


Transport Minister Clement Beaune expects the poll to result in a ban, while some operators also privately fear a negative result unless their mostly young users turn out to vote.

"It's an important consultation that will be watched by a lot of other towns in France and overseas," Beaune told Europe 1 radio on Wednesday. "I find it a shame that we have caricatured and dumbed down the debate.

"Instead of having it as 'for' or 'against', we could do 'for, with rules'," he said.

He argues that e-scooters are a valuable new transport solution that have replaced up to one in five journeys in Paris that would have previously involved an emissions-producing vehicle.

A total of 1.6 million people are eligible to vote, but turnout is expected to be low. Results are scheduled to be released in the evening.

A ban would be a setback for operators and could encourage other cities to follow suit, but the companies insist they are expanding elsewhere.

"Paris is going against the current," Hadi Karam, general manager for France at California-based Lime, told AFP, citing decisions to increase the number of e-scooters or extend contracts in Washington, Madrid or London.

"There's a trend towards these vehicles and this trend started in Paris, which was a pioneer," he said. "Today everyone else is convinced and Paris is deciding to make a step in the other direction. It's incomprehensible for us."

The vote has also focused attention on the environmental record of e-scooters amid a debate about whether they help reduce emissions, given that in most cases they replace a journey that would previously have been made on foot or in public transport.

Their batteries also have short life expectancies of around three years on average, according to the transport ministry.

"We think it's a useful device," Tony Renucci, head of the Respire charity that works to reduce air pollution, told AFP. "We should preserve it and not ban it."