In a major blow to shared micromobility companies Lime, Dott and Tier, Paris has voted to ban e-scooter rentals from their streets. Many in the industry fear that the move from Paris, where free-floating scooters first made their debut in 2018, will affect other cities.
Paris has been one of the most highly regulated markets for e-scooters, something companies have pointed to as an example of how to play nice with cities. But despite limiting scooter top speeds to just 10 kilometers per hour (about 6 miles per hour) and requiring riders to use dedicated parking spaces or pay fines, Paris has become the first city to change its policy on offering of shared micromobility contracts. businesses.
In a referendum organized on Sunday by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Parisians voted 89% against keeping shared e-scooters in the city. The three companies paying for contracts to operate in the City of Light will have to move their fleets — a total of 15,000 e-scooters — out of the city by September 1.
Hidalgo, who originally welcomed shared e-scooters to Paris, has helped make Paris a more livable 15-minute city and has led the way in reclaiming parking spaces from cars to create new bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly areas. However, shared scooters have received a lot of backlash from many city dwellers who often complain about reckless driving and litter on sidewalks.
Hidalgo said on Sunday that scooters are the cause of many accidents and that its business model is too expensive to be sustainable, with a 10-minute ride costing around €5. She also said that free-floating scooters are not as climate-friendly as she would like. At the beginning of the year, businessroundups.org dug deep into scooter use in Paris and found through several studies that while e-scooters are incredibly popular, they usually replace walking or public transportation, rather than car use.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t replaced car rides. A study 2019 shows that 7% of the kilometers traveled by scooters replace car and personal taxi rides, a number that has probably grown over the years. But 7% is not nothing, says Hélène Chartier, director of urban planning at C40, a global network of mayors taking urgent action against climate change. Chartier previously served as an advisor to Hidalgo.
“As part of a mobility package that Paris would offer as an alternative to cars, [shared e-scooters] could have been an option,” Chartier said. “Without all the other problems, they could have said, okay, why not? But if you add the accidents to that, if you add the difficulty in public space, then at a certain point you have to say that this is not the most important solution. We should invest more in cycling, e-bikes, walking.”
Low voter turnout
David Zipper, a visiting fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government, tweeted that he was not surprised that Paris voted against shared e-scooters, but that he had not expected such a large margin. That sentiment was echoed by scooter advocates and the companies themselves.
Dott, Lime and Tier said in a joint statement that low voter turnout affected the result of the referendum. Only 103,084 people turned out to vote, which is about 7.5% of the registered voters in Paris. They blamed restrictive rules, a limited number of polling stations (and thus long queues that deter young voters) and no electronic voting, saying the combination is “skewed strongly toward age groups, widening the gap between pros and cons”.
In addition, the companies said the referendum was held on the same day of the Paris Marathon and only residents of Paris would be allowed to vote, excluding those who live just outside the city but commute in.
The operators offered free rides to customers who voted on Sunday and relied on social media influencers to get young users to vote, efforts that appear to have been in vain. Parisians reported queuing up with a high proportion of older voters.
The referendum is non-binding, so Hidalgo could still make the unlikely decision to keep scooters in the city based on the low turnout. The figures clearly show that scooters are popular. Lime has previously told businessroundups.org that 90% of its Paris fleet is used every day. In 2021, more than 1.2 million scooter riders, 85% of whom are residents of Paris, made a total of 10 million trips through Lime, Dott and Tier. That is about 27,000 trips per day.
The ban will not affect the e-bikes offered by shared micromobility companies, which will remain in the city. Similarly, privately owned scooters are not covered by the ban, 700,000 of which were sold in France last year, according to figures from the Transport Ministry.