In Paris, the capital of France, a referendum is being held on Sunday April 2 to ban the rental of electric scooters on city streets. The polls opened at 9 and will close at 19: the result should be released in the evening. The referendum was proposed by mayor Anne Hidalgo, elected with the Socialist Party, who has long been rather hostile to services that offer the rental of electric scooters. The referendum, which does not have a quorum, was announced in January and barring surprises the option that intends to ban these services should win, even if some speculate a very low turnout.
The referendum concerns in particular scooters with free parking (free floating in English, libre-service in French): that is, rental scooters that can be parked freely after use, and which are also present in many Italian cities. The referendum does not concern private scooters.
Three scooter companies (Dott, Lime and Tier) operate in Paris and have around 15,000 vehicles. Hidalgo argues, among other things, that they are not really ecological, that they are dangerous for pedestrians and other vehicles and that the companies that manage them do not guarantee adequate working conditions for their employees. In November, the municipal administration of Paris had threatened not to renew the licenses of the three companies, even though an agreement was later reached.
Paris is one of the cities where the use of rental electric scooters was more widespread in recent years: at one point there were about twenty active companies. In recent years, Hidalgo has introduced various restrictions, including speed limits automatically imposed in certain areas thanks to the geolocation of vehicles, and the creation of special parking lots. However, supporters of the referendum say that the situation has not improved. France24 notes that in Paris, every rental electric scooter is used 3.5 times a day, the highest rate in Europe. In January, BFMTV and Le Figaro had obtained an estimate from the Parisian police that in 2022 there had been 408 accidents related to private and rental electric scooters, which had caused 3 deaths and 459 injuries. “We can’t manage them in public spaces and they are causing safety problems especially for the elderly and disabled,” Hidalgo said in a recent television interview with France2.
The coexistence of electric scooters, pedestrians and other means of transport is a topic of discussion in many European cities. Often, even in Italy, there are precise rules on where to use them and park them. A temporary ban on taking them on public transport, both hired and private, has been introduced in Barcelona since February. The ban object of the referendum in Paris, however, would be the first measure of its kind adopted by a large European city.
Le Monde writes that the turnout for the referendum remains “a great unknown factor”. The marathon is also being run in Paris on Sunday 2 April, and some commentators believe that elderly Parisians who are annoyed by the presence of electric scooters will participate in the referendum, while the younger ones – a category that statistically votes in lower percentages than the elderly – in many cases do not they don’t even know of the existence of the referendum.
In recent days, electric scooter rental companies have campaigned against the ban, leafleting in front of universities and paying some influencers to advance their arguments. The center-right opposition has not taken a precise position on the referendum, but has accused Hidalgo of having organized a “farce” to legitimize a decision already taken, namely the ban on these companies. Others have pointed out that such a measure could encourage the purchase of private electric scooters, which are less controllable, for example with geolocated speed limits, and therefore potentially more dangerous.
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