Today, Paris became one of the first European cities to implement an outright ban on rented e-scooters, after residents previously voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion.
During a referendum in April, voters were given two choices: “for” or “against” a city-wide ban on shared e-scooters. Almost 90% voted in favour of the ban, but the overall turnout was low — only 7.5% of eligible voters casted ballots. Nevertheless, the result was celebrated as a win for democracy by Mayor Anne Hidalgo who vowed to follow through on the verdict.
The ban applies to rental e-scooters (known as trottinettes in French) from the three companies with licences to operate in Paris — Tier, Dott, and Lime. These micro-mobility companies, with a combined fleet of roughly 15,000 e-scooters in the city, have until tomorrow (September 1) to remove their trottinettes from the streets.
The ban will not affect shared ebike services in the city. The ban also won’t prohibit people from whizzing through Paris on privately-owned trottinettes.
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A Dott spokesperson told TNW that by August 21 its fleet of 5,000 e-scooters had already been cleared from the sidewalks and alleyways of Paris. The machines will be heading to other places where Dott sees high demand, such as Belgium or as far afield as Tel Aviv. Tier will return most of its scooters to Germany or Warsaw, while Lime will ship them to Lille, London, Copenhagen, and cities in Germany.
A love-hate relationship
Paris was an early adopter of shared e-scooters back in 2018. Hiring dockless scooters via an app was touted as a promising climate-friendly alternative to cars for a city that needed to reduce its pollution levels and free up space.
However, the influx of these scooters soon led to chaos, with many users, including tourists, abandoning them on sidewalks, riding them recklessly in crowded areas, and even dumping them into the River Seine. This misuse also resulted in injuries and a handful of fatalities, mainly among pedestrians.
In response, Mayor Hidalgo pledged stricter regulations, including speed limits and cracking down on reckless riding and improper disposal of scooters. In 2019, the French government integrated e-scooters into the national highway code, imposing countrywide rules.
The city then limited the number of e-scooter operators to three companies— Tier, Dott, and Lime — and set a cap of 15,000 scooters in total. Despite regulations, problems persisted, eventually leading to the referendum in April 2023 and the prohibition of shared e-scooters in the City of Light.
Paris isn’t the first city to have introduced restrictions on the scooters, such as speed limits and parking zones enforced via fines for users.
Madrid this year reversed a prior ban to allow rental firms back with new conditions, as Copenhagen also did in 2021. Most e-scooters are banned on public roads in the Netherlands. However, outright bans by cities that have previously welcomed them are rare.
Dott’s spokesperson said “the situation in Paris is isolated”, with several European centres doubling down on their commitments to the mode of transport.
“Lyon recently committed to a four-year contract for e-scooters, London has extended their trial by a further three years, and Madrid has committed to a three-year contract following a tender,” the spokesperson said.
In Paris, Dott, Tier, and Lime will now focus their efforts on ebikes, to fill the gap in the market left by the departing trottinettes.
Even before e-scooters were banned in Paris, operators reported healthy growth in their ebike businesses. Dott reported a 166% boost in ebike rides in the first half of this year, while Lime said journeys on its bikes increased by 73% in the capital last year.
“We now operate twice the number of e-bikes than we ever did e-scooters, and are encouraged by the city’s continued support for cycling ahead of the 2024 Olympics,” Lime told CNBC.
While ebikes can also clutter pavements and pose a hazard to pedestrians, they are generally perceived as safer, even though that may not be the case.
Either way, it remains to be seen how the ban impacts commuters in the long term. Perhaps Paris will overturn it in the future, as Madrid and Copenhagen did, but for now it’s time to bid au revoir to the French capital’s fleets of brightly coloured trottinettes.