Paris bids ‘au revoir’ to e-scooter startups

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Parisians overwhelmingly voted to ban e-scooters on Sunday, in a hotly-debated referendum that has divided the French capital.

Voters were given two choices: “for” or “against” a city-wide ban on shared e-scooters.

89% voted in favour of the ban, but the overall turnout was low, with only 7.5% of eligible voters casting ballots.  

The vote was non-binding but city authorities have vowed to “abide by the decision”, said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The streets of Paris will be cleared from shared e-scooters by September 1, the mayor said. That’s when the contract with Dott, Tier, and Lime — the three e-scooter providers currently operating in the city — will expire.  

The ban will not have an effect on the e-bikes offered by shared micro-mobility companies, which will remain in the city.    

Despite welcoming e-scooters with open arms in 2018, Paris’ local government has progressively tightened its grip over the past five years, enforcing designated parking zones and speed limits, and restricting the number of operators. 

But despite the regulations, concerns over safety, following several fatal accidents, and complaints about scooters blocking sidewalks and disrupting other commuters, brought the issue to a head, with many calling for an outright ban. 

Mayor Hidalgo agreed, saying the e-scooters were a “source of tension and worry.” But instead of banning them outright, she brought the decision to the people. 

In January, the mayor announced what she described as a “public consultation”, to settle the issue ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

The e-scooter operators quickly launched a counter-offensive, offering free rides to all users that vote in their favour, and employing social media influencers to back their cause. But to no avail.

With the results now in, Paris is now set to become the first European capital to ban the mode of transport.       

Berlin-based Tier Mobility, Amsterdam-based Dott, and San Francisco-based Lime said they were “disappointed” by the news.

The operators said in a joint statement that the deployment of only 21 ballot stations and no option to vote digitally led to “an extremely low turnout, heavily skewed toward older age groups.” 

In 2022, Paris recorded about 20 million trips on 15,000 shared e-scooters — 71% of these users were under 35. Many riders are also tourists, who don’t get to vote.   

Some would have preferred a middle ground in the voting process. 

Transport Minister Clement Beaune supports a continuation of e-scooters in Paris, but with more rules. He pointed to statistics that suggest e-scooters have replaced up to one in five journeys that would otherwise have been made with emissions-producing vehicles. 

Mayor Hidalgo, on the other hand, called the result “a victory for local democracy.”   

Hadi Karam, general manager for France at Lime, told AFP last week that Paris was going “against the current” in seeking to ban rental e-scooters.   

Elsewhere in France, the mayor of Lyon, France’s third largest city, has just agreed to a four-year extension of its contract with Tier and Dott. 

Further afield, New York, London, and Madrid are all expanding the use of e-scooters in a bid to decarbonise their transport systems.   

It remains to be seen whether Paris’ ban on e-scooters will encourage other cities to follow suit, but it does represent a major blow for Dott, Tier, and Lime, who have now been barred from operating in one of the world’s largest shared micro-mobility markets.