Voters in Paris are turning their backs on electric scooters

An overwhelming majority of Parisians who took part in a referendum on electric scooters voted to ban the devices from the streets of the French capital. considered dangerous and environmentally questionable.

Relatively few people showed up for the referendum on Sunday — only about 100,000 Parisians voted, less than 7.5 percent of those eligible — but those who did cast a vote left little doubt about what they wanted: Nearly 89 percent supported the ban.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, a member of the Socialist Party, led the campaign against the rental scooters, describing them as “a nuisance” in the capital.

Although the referendum, described as a “public consultation”, was non-binding, Ms Hidalgo – who had supported the proliferation of the scooters to reduce traffic five years ago – said she was “committed to ensuring the results of the vote to respect”.

With the operators’ contracts expiring at the end of August, starting September 1, Ms Hidalgo said: “There will be no more self-service scooters in Paris.”

The decision could affect other cities, such as Rome, San Francisco and Stockholm, which initially embraced electric scooters but have now begun tightening regulations.

Paris is one of the largest scooter rental markets in the world, with about 20 million rides by 2022. But in the same year, the national road safety agency, Sécurité Routière, said that 34 people had died and 570 others were seriously injured in France while riding an electric scooter or similar mobility device.

France’s National Academy of Medicine also weighed in, saying it considered rental electric scooters a “major health problem”.

Ms Hidalgo has been looking for ways to ease traffic congestion and tackle climate change, but despite the fact that the scooters run on electrically charged batteries, their environmental value has come under scrutiny.

The three companies that run the scooter rental programs pointed to a city-sponsored study that found the devices helped reduce pollution in Paris, but that same study also noted that many people would have traveled using a different method with a low carbon footprint.

City Hall hailed a “victory for local democracy” but opposition parties, including President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance, and the three scooter rental companies denounced what they called a one-sided vote.

They were critical that online voting – rare in France – was not allowed, arguing that its absence discouraged participation from younger voters who were likely to use the scooters. They also complained that the geographic limits of who could vote, excluding people who live in the suburbs but spend time in the capital, were too restrictive.

The scooter operators — San Francisco-based company Lime, Dutch start-up Dott, and German start-up Tier — ventured into anti-ban campaigns in various ways. That was partly because they feared that a vote to ban the devices would send a negative signal to other cities that initially embraced the scooters but are now increasingly considering whether the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

Before the vote, the companies operating in Paris staged a marketing campaign based on social media influencers in the city, offering free rides on the day of the referendum to try and mobilize young voters, their main customer base.

Together, the three companies, which rent their devices through smartphone apps and have been operating in Paris since 2018, have a total of about 15,000 scooters in the capital.