'Saturated' Paris tells e-scooter fleets to clean up

Paris (AFP) –


Paris authorities have warned operators of the thousands of electric scooters that have inundated the city to keep them off pavements or face a temporary ban amid rising complaints from pedestrians.

On Monday, the ten competitors who have launched services in Paris all signed a "code of good conduct" with the mayor's office, which says the city is now "saturated" with the devices.

The companies -- with catchy one-syllable names such as Lime, Bolt, Wind and Flash -- have collectively put 15,000 scooters on the streets in the past few months, causing tensions that have emerged in cities worldwide from Madrid to Los Angeles.

Fans have embraced them as a quick and cheap way to get around, since the "dockless" devices are unlocked with a phone app and can be left anywhere when a ride is finished.

That is exactly the problem, critics say, pointing to scooters strewn across the city's stately squares or abandoned in piles littering narrow sidewalks, to the bane of people hauling groceries or pushing prams.

They have also been used as makeshift weapons by protesters who have hurled them at police during the weekly "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron which erupted last November.

"We hope this charter will be a step toward building better relationships with operators," Paris's deputy mayor for transport Christophe Najdovski said at a press conference on Monday.

The city went through a similar process last year, when thousands of park-anywhere rental bikes were scattered across the city in a move that caught city officials by surprise.

Hundreds of bikes were vandalised or stolen -- some ending up in the bottom of the city's canals -- and most of the companies have since quit the market.

- Data sharing -

Paris has already introduced fines for riding electic scooters on the pavement to 135 euros ($150) and will levy 35-euro fines for users who cause an obstruction by parking on a pavement.

Under the new code signed with the city, scooter fleet operators must promise to distribute the devices in "clearly designated and listed" parking areas, and make sure their clients use them.

Paris has also told operators they will have to pay annual licence fees of 50 to 65 euros per scooter, depending on the size of their fleets.

Most Parisians would be hard pressed to find any such spots currently, though the city said in April that it would build 2,500 scooter parking areas.

Operators will also have to provide the city with data on the deployment and use of their scooters, to help understand traffic trends and "optimise parking spaces."

They must also pledge to use so-called "green electricity" generated from wind, solar or other renewable sources for charging batteries, and ensure careful recycling of damaged devices.

"If self-regulation fails, the only solution is to temporarily outlaw their use while waiting for a new law" on transportation that is set to enacted by the national parliament in July, Jean-Louis Missika, the deputy Paris mayor for urbanism, said Monday.

Arthur Jacquier, head of Lime in France, welcomed what he called "necessary rules" for the scooters.

His California-based company was one of the first to launch in Paris last year, and currently has "a couple of thousand" scooters across the city, he said.