Paris, known as the City of Love, Light, and Culture, has said goodbye to its electric scooters. On Sunday, an overwhelming 90% of voters went for the ban of the battery-powered devices in the referendum. These two-wheelers had been causing countless accidents, injuries, and disturbances in the streets and sidewalks of the French capital.
A Victory for Road Safety
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a pro-cycling Socialist leader, initiated the referendum, in which the people would decide whether to ban Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme. Showing her support and commitment to abide by the result of the vote, Hidalgo said at the polling station, “I’m committed to respectfully honoring the choice of voters, simply speaking.” She continued, “Vélib’ isn’t very economical costing 5 euros for just 10 minutes ride, not to mention it’s very hazardous, leading to a number of accidents.”
Electric scooter operators Lime, Dott, and Tier have been offering free rides all day on Sunday in an effort to encourage people to vote against the ban in Paris. They used social media to speak out about their cause, suggesting that although electric scooters only make up a small number of traffic accidents in the city, they offer a greener and more convenient transportation option compared to cars.
Despite their best efforts, the majority of Parisians had grown too fed up with the way some riders handled the e-scooters – weaving through traffic, zipping past pedestrians on the sidewalks, and reaching speeds of up to 17 mph. Adding fuel to the fire, riders frequently neglected to wear helmets and children as young as 12 could legally utilize the vehicles. There was also a rising discontent as groups of parked scooters blocked pavements and caused issues for those with disabilities.
Privately-owned electric scooters will face consequences under the ban, not being allowed to circulate or park in public spaces. Owners of these vehicles will need to register them and pay a fee in order to use specified parking areas.
A Blow for Emissions Reduction
Environment enthusiasts are divided on the decision to impose a ban on electric scooters in Paris. Some welcomed the decision, as it could reduce noise and visual pollution. However, others lamented the loss of a low-carbon mode of transport that would have helped Paris fulfill its climate objectives.
A research conducted by the European NGO Transport & Environment found that electric scooters actually emit 50% lesser CO2 than cars in each kilometer traveled. Surprisingly, however, these scooters are not as eco-friendly as they appear. In fact, their production, maintenance, and charging involve a lot of energy, which works counter to the goal of emissions reduction. Furthermore, electric scooters sometimes replace walking, cycling, or public transport instead of replacing car trips.
A recent study has advocated for electric scooters to be included in an overall mobility strategy of prioritizing active and shared transportation modes instead of private and individual ones. Additionally, experts suggest that electric scooter operators should consider renewable energy sources, longer-lasting vehicles, and recycled batteries as ways to improve environmental performance.
A Trendsetter for Europe?
In many European cities, electric scooters have become synonymous with chaos and inequality. From Berlin to Barcelona to London, cities have been introducing regulations to try and curb their use and promote safety and order in public spaces. Despite this, Paris is the first capital to take the extreme measure of completely banning the scooters. Such a decision could serve as an example for other cities to follow. Though they have been considered a trend amongst wealthy travelers and tech-savvy youth, many citizens now feel their disregard for the rights of others has gone too far. This referendum result serves as a testament to the increasingly strong backlash against electric scooters in Europe.
Supporters of electric scooters have highlighted the fun and creative aspect of this new form of transport, as well as its potential for cutting down on congestion and pollution. Proponents argue that such vehicles could be an essential part of urban mobility in the future, something to be embraced rather than rejected.
However, the debate over the use of electric scooters is likely to carry on as people strive to find new and sustainable methods of travelling around increasingly packed and polluted cities. It remains to be seen whether electric scooters will be part of the solution or part of the problem.