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Paris to restrict electric scooters after dangerous year on French capital’s streets

Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP | Electric scooters left in front of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in Paris, on April 1, 2019

Paris is cracking down on electric scooters after a dangerous and chaotic year on the City of Light’s roads and pavements as the craze for the “trottinettes” (in French) saw the machines flood the capital.

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Paris’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo said there have been a spate of injuries, some serious, and many near-misses across the city due to the trend for the new fashionable travel device.

The key problem being that the riders for electric scooters, or e-scooters, do not stick to just the roads, but also the capital's narrow pavements (sidewalks) and do not not wear helmets.

“We need order and rules to assure road safety and to calm the streets, sidewalks and neighborhoods of our city,” Hidalgo said Thursday.

“It’s not far from anarchy and it’s extremely difficult for a city like ours to manage this kind of service,” Hidalgo added.

The video tweet below shows how the electric scooters are abandoned precariously on the pavements across the city, footage of the drivers, and the press conference with the major.

The scooters can be rented via smartphone apps, meaning they are accessible to almost anyone, including non-experienced riders.

Pianist career in danger due to ‘trottinettes’

For Isabelle Vanbrabant, any regulations are too late. The pianist at Paris’ famed Opera was coming home from work last month and walking across a square near Les Halles when a rider on an electric scooter zoomed up and knocked her over. The rider did not even stop, until she screamed for help. The pianist fell on her right arm, suffering multiple fractures.

“I need this hand. I need to have it back. The prognosis is uncertain we have to wait to see how it’s healing and then I’ll have to have physiotherapy which will be difficult and delicate.”

Big market as the fashion grows

The French capital has 12 scooter operators, more than the entire United States, according to a study released Thursday, and about 20,000 of the two-wheeled vehicles.

According to Boston Consulting, the average electric scooter has a life-span of just three months. The device was originally designed for private use, not for public rental. Therefore the heavy usage, rough handling, and even vandalism have dramatically reduced their durability. As a result, it takes almost four months for a rental company to break even on its investment.

Broken scooters are discarded in some of the city’s famed gardens, pavements, entrances to metros or are even tossed over bridges into the River Seine.

Picture below shows volunteers who fished out -- from just a few metres -- 22 electric-scooters from the city's famous river, with the tweeter despairing at the lack of civic responsibility.

The ancient city has become something of a battleground between riders and pedestrians.

The city already imposes €135 fines for riding on the sidewalk and €35 fines for blocking the sidewalk while parked. Operators are charged by the city for any broken scooters that need to be picked up by municipal workers

Both the City of Paris and police want to limit speeds to 20 kilometers per hour in most areas, and 8 kilometers per hour in areas with heavy foot traffic, and prohibit parking anywhere but designated spaces. Hidalgo also plans to limit the number of operators to three and cap the number of scooters.

About a third of electric scooter riders in France are foreign tourists, according to the study by 6t-bureau conducted for a French government agency specializing in transport.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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