Paris considers ban on e-scooters in test case for micromobility industry

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Wander the streets of any major city in Europe or North America and chances are you’ll eventually come across a swarm of brightly colored electric scooters, lined up more or less in order, waiting for riders.

For some, e-scooters for rent are an eyesore, which can cause accidents on and off the sidewalk. For others, they symbolize convenience and are a welcome alternative to cars.

This polarization is particularly evident in Paris, which is undergoing a major transformation led by Mayor Anne Hidalgo, with the aim of reclaiming public space from roads and vehicles to make the city more livable.

Now Hidalgo faces a stark choice: Politicians from various parties are calling on her to ban e-scooters from the city when their operators’ contracts expire in February 2023. scooters in Paris — say they help the city meet its environmental goals. She is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks, according to one of her deputies, David Belliard.

“We question the cost-benefit ratio of these machines,” he told The Washington Post, citing congestion, safety and insufficient evidence of their environmental benefits.

Every decision made in Paris could have global implications: While many cities around the world, including New York and DC, have expanded scooter use, many are also passing legislation to rein in the micromobility industry.

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A major concern is safety: in France, government figures show that last year 24 people died as a result of accidents involving a personal motorized vehicle, including scooters, hoverboards and Segways. That’s seven deaths in 2020 and 10 in 2019. Not counting the deaths, there were 337 accidents involving these vehicles in the first eight months of this year, up from 247 in the first eight months of 2021, according to Reuters.

Paris has strict rules on where scooters can park without a scaffold, but in many cities it is common to find them scattered on sidewalks, posing risks for pedestrians, particularly the elderly and those with visual impairments.

Scooter drivers emphasize that the rise in accidents and deaths should be seen in the context of increased usage. Nicolas Gorse, chief business officer for Dott, told The Post via email that “safety per trip is increasing.”

A spokesperson for Lime, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share internal company details, told The Post via email that between January 2020 and June 2022, “more than 99.99% of Lime rides in Paris were without safety incidents”. The spokesperson said Lime e-scooters “see fewer fatalities per trip than bicycles, and far fewer than those caused by mopeds or cars.”

Proponents of e-scooters claim they help get polluting vehicles off the road. But Belliard, who is a member of the Green Party, says the environmental gains are overstated. There is debate over what proportion of e-scooter riders would take a vehicle – rather than public transport, cycle or walk – if the scooters weren’t available: experts told the UK Parliament in 2020 that overall “current evidence is a relatively little shift away from car use in European cities, and more shift away from active travel models and public transport.”

Operators also say e-scooters could help ease the strain on public transport, especially ahead of events such as the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. They point out that when public transport workers went on strike in Paris earlier this month, e-scooters were a popular alternative among commuters.

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E-scooter opponents have other concerns, especially around parking and congestion. Paris’ traffic infrastructure was not built to accommodate a fleet of thousands of new micromobility vehicles, says Jérôme Monnet, co-director of the Paris School of Urbanism.

To address these issues, the City of Paris has imposed new restrictions on the e-scooter industry, limiting the number of licensed operators to three, limiting their collective fleet to 15,000 and placing restrictions on where the scooters can be parking and how fast they can. To go. Officials now want to move forward and have asked Lime, Dott and Tier for proposals on how to better integrate the vehicles into the city if their contracts are renewed.

The proposals the companies have made include age verification for motorcyclists and a promise to equip more scooters with license plates to make it easier for police to issue tickets to motorcyclists who break traffic rules. They say they’ve already made some changes, including testing new technology to force riders to park their scooters in designated spots.

“If Paris accepts our proposals, it would become the city with the strictest scooter regulations in the world,” Garance Lefèvre, Lime’s public affairs director, told Reuters.

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Paris isn’t the first city to consider banning shared e-scooters: In April, the Cincinnati City Council imposed a 6 p.m. curfew on scooter use, before extending it to 9 p.m. a few months later. According to local broadcaster WVXU, city officials said they were considering a ban. And in 2020, the government briefly banned the rental of free-floating e-scooters in parts of Copenhagen.

But Paris is at the forefront of regulating the micromobility industry and could serve as a benchmark for both the industry and the wider debate in France on how to improve urban mobility.

Belliard argues that the back-and-forth wrangling with operators over scooter safety proves that Paris needs “a regulatory framework” to contain the rise of micromobility.

“I always feel like we’re in a race against the private operators of free-floating scooters,” he said. “It’s a system that isn’t sustainable over time.”

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