PARIS — The wheels may come from the ubiquitous electric scooters of Paris.
Zipping around the City of Light on one of them, wind in the hair, or romantically but naughtyly e-scooting à deux in a car when the gendarmes are not looking could soon be over if Parisians vote on Sunday to remove the opinion of 15,000. -sharing the micro-vehicles.
The question the municipality is asking in a city-wide mini-referendum is: “For or against self-service scooters in Paris?”
The answer could condemn a leading market for the fast two wheels that have expanded the choices of locomotion in the French capital and in other urban centers and cities in the world.
Scattered across Paris, easy to locate and rent with a downloadable app and relatively cheap, scooters are a hit with tourists who love their speed and the freedom of help they offer. In the five years since its introduction, following in the wake of shared cars and shared bikes, rental scooters have also built a following among Parisians who don’t want or can’t afford their own, but like the option to escape from the Metro. and other public transport.
But amid complaints that e-scooters are an eyesore and a traffic menace, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and some of her deputies want to banish the “free-floating” flotilla – so-called because the scooters are taken and left at the whim of its tenants – on security, public nuisance and cost-benefit reasons before the capital hosts the Olympic Games next year.
The deputy mayor of Paris for transport, David Belliard, says that scooters have been involved in hundreds of accidents. He also says that they are more harmful to the environment than walking or riding a bicycle or a bus, and too fast and anarchic in a crowded, compact and historic city where space is at a premium.
They create “a general feeling of insecurity in the public space, especially for the most vulnerable people, I think of the elderly or people with disabilities,” he said in an interview on Friday with The Associated Press. “There are a few benefits, but what I see today is that the costs are greater.”
The Paris contracts with the three rental companies – Dott, Lime and TIER – expire at the end of August. The survival of e-scooters for rent in Paris beyond this will depend on Sunday’s poll which is open to all registered voters of the city, including those from other European Union countries.
“Whatever the result, we will respect it,” Belliard promised. Hidalgo also promised and said that she, too, hopes that Parisians will vote against scooters.
Scooter critics say the machines are particularly dangerous in the hands of tourists who don’t know how to navigate the frenetic, honking, honking traffic of Paris and the many users who ignore the rules and risk fines. to ride two to a scooter and from mountain sidewalk, sometimes cane through the pedestrians.
“I regularly, in fact almost all the time, I see tourists riding in pairs, people who often ignore what they are doing, who do not have control of the scooter,” says Raphael Sicat, an IT manager who travels. on an electric unicycle at his Paris office. He says he often sees crashes involving rental scooters on his 40-kilometer (25-mile) round trip.
Swiss tourist Ler Detelj loves adrenaline.
“It’s fast and easy and cool,” she said as she and two friends took scooters for a spin at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
The three scooter operators say they transported almost 2 million people in the city last year and that 71% of Parisian users are under 35 years old. They used social media influencers, some of them paid, and messages on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat and TikTok in a defeat of the vote intended for that age group. They also offer a free round trip on Sundays on their scooters or electric bikes to users who type the words “Je vote” – Vote in French – into their apps.
Garance Lefèvre, a director of public policy for one of the operators, Lime, says that women and LGBTQ+ people value scooters as a safe way of traveling late at night and that the two wheels are generally rooted in the Parisian habits. The city has “really raised the standards for the entire industry,” he said, and operators have created “sustainable and responsible jobs.”
“Paris has been the pioneer in terms of embracing shared micro-mobility,” he says. “Paris would really be an outlier if they decide to end the service.”
Masha Macpherson in Paris contributed.