Paris Says Au Revoir to the Deadly e-Scooters

Paris has become the first major European city to put a stop to the rental of e-scooters after a mounting death toll created a public debate on the issue. Late in the evening before the ban came into effect, trucks were out on the streets clearing away the 15,000 scooters that can be seen all over the French capital.

Paris was the first city in Europe to allow the rental companies to leave scooters at random places to be rented via a mobile app on a smartphone. Popular amongst the under 35s, students and of course drunken tourists, e-scooters have become increasingly controversial of late. Politicians in particular have been warning of the safety issues as many youngsters without a driving license or any protective clothes like a crash helmet would weave their way through the traffic all too often with tragic results.

A bit like the traffic in Paris, the scooter riders tended to be somewhat anarchic with their use. After a spate of accidents, including the death of a pedestrian, Paris introduced some of the toughest controls on the sector, limiting the number of operators and the speed. Still the controversy raged and piles of abandoned scooters would block the pedestrian walkways, turning the city in to a dangerous “jungle”, as one Green Party politician put it.

Public angst was running high enough for Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, to call for a referendum on the issue. Overwhelmingly, 90% of the votes were in favour of banning them. This seems to be a victory for City Hall and democracy, but the voter turn-out was a mere 7.5% of the electorate, mostly older regular voters, and thus probably was a win for apathy. What may be lost on most voters was that back in 2018, it was the very same Anne Hidalgo who introduced the e-scooters.

The scooters were nearly always used for short trips and so we are guessing ex-renters will now be obliged to walk to their destinations or turn to other forms of public transport, which the City Council believes there is plenty of. There is still the option of renting an e-bike or even buying your own scooter.

An announcement from David Belliard, the Green Party Deputy Mayor in charge of public transport for Paris, said, “We know it is possible to live in a city without an electric scooter scheme. This is about our larger work to simplify, calm down and declutter the public space in Paris”.

The Mayor and her hemp-trouser wearing Green allies have had their victory and now, rental scooters will be assigned to the trash can of history. However, private scooters are not banned yet, so perhaps this debate will fester for a little while longer.

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