With all of the world’s major economies working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, last week’s news that Paris had ‘overwhelmingly voted to ban e-scooters’ took many by surprise. One voice of reason analysed the story, breaking down the fiction to reveal the facts. The voice belongs to Ross Ringham, Managing Director of Spacesuit Media – a company specialising in photography and film making around electric mobility and electric racing events. This is his take on Parisian proceedings.
“Last week’s reporting on this story, felt sloppy and misleading”, says Ringham. So what did actually happen and what does it mean? Here's a six-point breakdown on the Parisian vote by Ringham:-
- Was the vote legally binding?
The mayor of Paris conducted an opinion poll in Paris on the future of rental e-scooters.
The results hold no water, legally. It remains the mayor's decision whether or not to renew the city's shared e-scooter programme when it reaches the end of its contract later this summer
- So is Paris banning e-scooters?
Paris is not banning e-scooters.
The mayor is likely to simply not renew contracts for shared e-scooter providers, and seems perfectly content to allow personal e-scooters (which already are responsible for hundreds of thousands of journeys) to flourish
- Did enough people vote for it to be significant?
Despite not being a legal vote, and despite the legal age to ride e-scooters being just 12 in France, opinions could only be cast by those of electoral voting age (18+), carrying their official ID, at quasi-official voting booths.
A mere 21 booths were set up around the city. There was no digital access. Voting options were binary: yes or no. This limited and limiting set-up favours an older demographic, and it's likely no coincidence that it's those older residents who are both more likely to turn out for a paper vote and more likely to dislike e-scooters. A tiny percentage of the city's voters (less than 8%) actually bothered – surely the very definition of the ‘noisy minority’
- Would the ban help reduce street clutter?
Will discontinuing shared e-scooters solve the biggest subjects of discontent among that minority – poor parking and inconsiderate riding?
No. While the move may reduce street clutter from parked e-scooters, if anything it will lead to an explosion in cheaply-made, cheaply-bought personal e-scooters being ridden by 14-year-olds. Those internet-sourced machines will likely arrive without speed limiters, without adequate lighting, and painted in dark colours. It's a situation that could quickly become a nightmare for visually impaired people and other vulnerable groups
- How much would the ban cost Paris?
In the meantime, if the mayor does decide to close up shop for shared e-scooters, the city purse will forgo nearly €1m in fees collected from the three shared e-scooter providers, and the mayor will be directly responsible for putting some 800 people out of work
- Does this situation mean all of Europe is likely to ban e-scooters?
No. Does it mean shared e-scooter companies are the victims of political posturing of a mayor playing to a safe gallery?
Partly, yes. However, the shared e-scooter industry does bear some culpability for a Silicon Valley-like history of over-promising and under-delivering (on safety tech, on safety processes, on environmental credentials, on community communication and on low-income support, in particular)
Ringham doubts we have seen the end of shared e-scooters in Paris, but he does believe that the financial/operating model will undergo change – with companies like Velib likely to do well.
Having used them across Germany, Spain, France and other countries, WhichEV feels that e-scooters need to form part of the core for future inner-city transport. Sure, the legislation needs to be looked at, but believing that cars are a good thing and that e-scooters are too dangerous – is just not going to stand up to scrutiny.
Here in the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), has stated that e-scooters are demonstrably five times safer than bicycles. Let along cars, trucks or buses.