Hard blow for shared micromobility companies Lime, Dott and TierParis voted for to forbid rental of electric scooters on their streets. Many industry players fear the move to Paris, where floating scooters initially took off in 2018, could have ripple effects in other cities.
Paris has been one of the most regulated e-scooter markets, which companies have cited as an example of how they can play with cities. Yet despite limiting scooter top speeds as slow as 10 kilometers per hour (about 10 km/h) and forcing users to use dedicated parking lots or pay fines, Paris has become the first city to completely reverse its policy of offering contracts to shared micromobility companies.
In a referendum organized by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Sunday, Parisians voted 89% against keeping shared electric scooters in the city. The three companies paying for the contracts to operate in the City of Light will have to pull their fleets – a total of 15,000 electric scooters – out of the city by September 1.
Hidalgo, which originally welcomed shared electric scooters to Paris, lobbied for Paris to become a more livable 15-minute city and spearheaded policies that reclaim car parking spaces to create new bike lanes and pedestrian areas. However, shared scooters have gotten a lot of backlash from many city dwellers who often complain about reckless driving and crowded sidewalks.
Hidalgo said on Sunday that scooters are the cause of many accidents and that the commercial model was too expensive to be sustainable, with a 10-minute ride costing around €5. She also said that floating scooters are not as climate-friendly as she would like. At the beginning of the year, TechCrunch dove into the use of scooters in Parisand have found through a variety of studies that while electric scooters are incredibly popular, they mostly replace walking or public transport, rather than car use.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t replaced car trips. A study as of 2019, 7% of scooter miles traveled replace car and personal taxi trips, a number that has likely increased 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 was previously an adviser to Hidalgo.
“As part of a mobility package that Paris would offer as an alternative to the car, [shared e-scooters] could have been an option,” Chartier said. “Without all the other issues, they could have said, Ok why not? But if you add the accidents, if you add the difficulty in the public space, at some point, you have to say to yourself that this is not the main solution. We should invest more in bicycles, e-bikes, walking.
Low participation rate
David Zipper, visiting scholar at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard Kennedy School, tweeted that he was not surprised to see Paris vote against shared e-scooters, but that he did not expect such a large margin. This 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 referendum results. Only 103,084 people went to the polls, or about 7.5% of registered Parisian voters. They blamed restrictive rules, a limited number of polling stations (and therefore long queues that deter young voters) and no electronic voting, saying the combination “heavily biased in favor of older age groups, which which widened the gap between pros and cons”.
Additionally, the companies said the referendum was held on the same day as the Paris Marathon and only Paris residents were allowed to vote, excluding those who live just outside the city but commute.
Operators offered free rides to customers who voted on Sunday and relied on social media influencers to try to get young users to vote, efforts that appear to have been futile. Parisians reported that there was a high proportion of older voters in the queues.
The referendum is non-binding, so Hidalgo may still make the unlikely decision to keep scooters in the city due to low turnout. The numbers clearly show that scooters are popular. Lime previously told TechCrunch that 90% of its fleet in Paris is in use every day. In 2021, more than 1.2 million scooter riders, 85% of them Paris residents, made a total of 10 million trips across Lime, Dott and Tier. This represents approximately 27,000 trips per day.
The ban will not affect e-bikes offered by shared micromobility companies, which will remain in town. Similarly, private scooters are not affected by the ban, of which 700,000 were sold in France last year, according to figures from the Ministry of Transport.