They are useful, good for employment, non-polluting and profitable… In a word, they are indispensable. For a few months now, Dott, Lime and Tier, the three operators who run a total of 15,000 profitable e-scooters in Paris, have been trying to look at their best in the run-up to the referendum, which is scheduled to take place in Paris less than a month.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (Socialist Party) is proposing that voters decide on the fate of Dott’s red and blue electric scooters, Lime’s white and green scooters and Tier’s dark green scooters. Voting will open on Sunday, April 2, until 7 pm, to voters who registered on the Parisian electoral rolls before March 3.
No proxy or electronic voting will be possible. Lime offered a free 10-minute ride to any voter who could prove their registration on the city’s electoral lists before March 3. “We do it for every election and we didn’t hesitate to renew this offer for an election that concerns us,” said Hadi Karam, Lime’s general manager for France.
Situation drastically changed
The operator is also trying to prove that it serves a purpose. On days when there is a transport strike, Lime records “a strong increase in the number of users and new registrations,” said Karam. In February, the company opportunely unveiled its “profitability for a full year” on a global scale as a way of reminding people that it should no longer be classified as a risky start-up obsessed with its customers’ digital data, but that it is a respectable player in the mobility industry.
Dott prefers to highlight its recycling expertise. On March 13, in its workshop in east-central France, the company will present a remanufacturing program designed to extend the life of its machines by four years, bringing it to “seven years.” The operator is seeking to counter the disastrous effects of a study conducted in 2018 based on data from its Louisville, Kentucky, hub in the United States, according to which the machines were out of use after 28 days. At the time, the self-service scooters weighed a dozen kilograms, compared to about 30 today.
In Paris, Dott, Lime, and Tier claim 400,000 users per month, and “an industry of 800 jobs.” On March 14, they will collectively launch a digital campaign to convince voters. Although many Parisians remember the mounds of scooters deposited on the sidewalks in 2018 and 2019 by a dozen companies that had not asked for permission, the situation has radically changed.
Since 2020, 2,500 parking spaces have been created and users who do not return their scooters to them are subject to a penalty. Scooters’ speed is limited to 20 km/h, and even 10 km/h in some areas. They have been registered since November 2022.
Faced with reproaches aimed at their customers’ accident-generating behavior, the operators brandished a study conducted by the consulting firm 6t on behalf of the City of Paris. According to the study, 26% of self-service scooter users have suffered an accident, but that’s the case for 51% of users of Vélib, the Paris self-service bicycle operator. “Will the next step be to ban Vélib?” said Karima Delli, chairwoman (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, France’s Green party) of the European Parliament’s transport committee, who is against the ban.
It’s not hard to imagine that private scooter retailers, who are not concerned by the April 2 vote, would want their competitors to disappear. But this is not the case. The Federation of Micromobility Professionals, which brings together about 50 importers, distributors and insurers, “invites all Parisians” to vote for “these services that meet people’s needs.”
In a dense city, where mobility is the subject of heated debate, everyone is choosing a side. While the representatives of the majority want to put an end to self-service scooters, the minister delegate in charge of transport, Clément Beaune, elected MP of Paris in June 2022, will vote against the banwhile wishing for “a reinforced national framework.”
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The Respire group, which fights against atmospheric pollution, is in favor of keeping the scooters, which is also likely to be the case for pedestrian groups. Pro-bike organizations, on the other hand, have not taken a stance. Paris en Selle (1,200 members) will not give any indication of how it will vote. Alexis Frémeaux, President of Mieux Se Déplacer à Bicyclette, which has 2,000 members in the Ile-de-France region, explained his group’s position.
“We are aware,” he said, “that some anti-scooter arguments are also valid for bicycles, and that this consultation diverts the debate from the place granted to the car.” But the association “has no desire to support private operators who burden the city with their externalities.” Dott, Lime and Tier point out that they pay the city an annual fee for occupying public space, which totals one million euros.