Paris says 'au revoir' to electric scooters as ban takes effect
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Today Paris becomes the first European capital to ban rentable electric scooters from its streets. Paris was one of the first major cities to embrace them. But as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, the love affair did not last.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: OK, so here. Scan to ride. I've scanned it. It says I can start riding. Check your brakes. Make sure you wear a helmet. Step on. Push off. Press go. Accelerate. One rider per scooter only, and no drunk driving - here I go.
I take a last spin on an e-scooter at the end of August. When I turn it back in, I have to send a picture to prove I'm parked in a properly designated place.
DAVID BELLIARD: We have tried to make a regulation of scooters, electric scooters, in 2020 by reducing the number of operators, by reducing the numbers of scooters and by using new rules, especially in parking.
BEARDSLEY: That's David Belliard, adviser to the Paris Mayor for transportation, mobility and the transformation of public spaces.
BELLIARD: Three years after, a lot of problems still exist, especially in terms of insecurity and in terms of sharing of public space.
BEARDSLEY: The scooters were also ordered off the sidewalks. And the companies which operated them were required to place speed limits on the devices after many injuries and two reported deaths. But even after the changes, an Italian tourist walking along the Seine River became the third fatality when she was hit by a scooter carrying two riders. Nevertheless, many are disappointed over the ban, none more so than young people, like 17-year-old Maria Cantal and her friend Ines Renaud.
MARIA CANTAL: That's not good for us because the scooter was good to get around everything. So it was more simple. It's very sad.
INES RENAUD: Yes.
RENAUD: It was very cool. And so we are sad.
BEARDSLEY: But after a petition garnered 18,000 signatures, the city put the question of whether the e-scooters were to be or not to be on a referendum last April. Eighty-nine percent of the 104,000 voters elected to get rid of them. Privately owned scooters are exempt. Even though only 11% of registered voters cast a ballot, city officials say that is a significant number for a local issue. The three companies that operated scooters in Paris had until August 31 to get 15,000 electric scooters off the streets. Fifty-six-year-old Natalie DuPont says, hallelujah.
NATALIE DUPONT: (Through interpreter) Yes, they've disappeared. I'm so happy. People still went too fast and on the sidewalks. I have a friend who broke her leg and her arm when a scooter ran into her.
BEARDSLEY: Paris city official Belliard says Rome, London and Brussels no doubt face a similar situation, but he believes Paris' problems were more intense.
BELLIARD: Paris is a small town, very dense with a lot of people, so public space is a very big and high pressure in terms of utilization.
BEARDSLEY: Paris is Europe's most densely populated city, he says, so more people share the public space. In a press statement, Lime, the biggest e-scooter operator, said it would redeploy its Paris fleet to dynamic European cities where scooter use is growing. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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