Few subjects have raised so much debate in recent years in Paris. Since their arrival in the capital in 2018, self-service or “free-floating” scooters have polarized opinion. Considered practical, useful and ecological by their defenders, they are accused of being dangerous, cumbersome and polluting by their detractors. This is the reason why the municipality organized a vote next Sunday, April 2 by which Parisians will be able to answer the question “For or against self-service scooters? “.
A consultation far from trivial since the municipality has undertaken to follow the result of this vote. A majority of “for” and the City of Paris will launch a new call for tenders. Conversely, a vote “against” would sign the end of the 15,000 self-service scooters in the capital from September 1st. This issue is the subject of a fierce struggle between the operators and the municipality.
Voting conditions that divide
“We are not going to hide that we did not feel this vote coming, explains Xavier Miraillès, director of public affairs at Lime, one of the three authorized operators in Paris. We learned it in a interview with Anne Hidalgo given in mid-January. No one bothered to let us know ahead of time. “The pill had a hard time passing. The employees I saw the next day were distraught”, also comments Nicolas Gorse, general manager of Dott.
However aware that the presence of their machines in Paris was still a subject of debate, the operators saw it as a means of engaging in discussion with all parties: “It is still a young industry which reveals many points for improvement. At first, we welcomed this initiative, underlines Erwann Lepage, director of public affairs at Tier, but when we discovered the conditions of the ballot, we were disappointed. »
Conditions ? About twenty polling stations “only”, distributed in the town halls of the arrondissement, a date which they consider problematic, April 2, day of the Paris marathon, and a vote confined to its physical form. “Why not organize an electronic vote like for the participatory budget? », is surprised Xavier Miraillès. This last solution would undoubtedly have mobilized young people more, according to the operators, the main users of scooters.
“Hidalgo does not want to bear the political cost of the ban”
Similarly, the operators are indignant at having seen the regulations published only in mid-March, two weeks before the election, preventing them from properly preparing a campaign. “It seems that everything is done to camouflage this vote and finally direct it towards the cons, there has not even been a public debate”, breathes Nicolas Gorse. Even the opposition group to the Paris Council Changer Paris, led by Rachida Dati, got involved in the debate, accusing the majority of wanting to “liquidate the subject and quickly”. According to a member of the group, Anne Hidalgo would have even chosen this mode of consultation “without legal framework” for the sole purpose of clearing herself of the result: “She does not want to assume the political cost of the ban and alienate young people. »
Too bad, the operators did not wait to have more details to defend their balance sheet in the public square. On March 16, after a ten-day strike, they published a press release on record usage figures in the capital, a sign of an “indispensable alternative to existing modes of transport”. To invite its users to vote, the Lime company even offered ten minutes of free shopping to all its users who would prove their participation in the ballot.
For David Belliard, “regulation does not work”
An initiative immediately condemned on Twitter by David Belliard, deputy Anne Hidalgo in charge of transport and mobility who accused the company “of buying voters”. The elected EELV, leader of the “cons”, crystallizes the dissatisfaction of the operators. “I’m not an anti as I heard, but if it were up to me there would already be no more self-service scooters in Paris. “A position that David Belliard justifies by the negative balance of the experience. “We tried to regulate but it didn’t work. The problems of accidentology, the anxiety-provoking aspect for sensitive audiences such as seniors or people with disabilities and congestion in public space have not been resolved, ”explains the elected official who concedes all the same some improvements.
Improvements, a major argument for operators who claim progress in all areas. To justify their good will, they brandish I’Study on the uses and users of micromobility in Paris published by 6T-research office for the Mobility Agency of the City of Paris in 2022. “It shows all the benefits to be derived from our services”, pleads Erwann Le Page.
Significant progress at all levels
The report, in fact, shatters some common misconceptions about free-floating scooters. We discover that the proportion of users having had an accident is twice lower (26%) than that of Vélib’ users (51%), but they have had more serious accidents (9% of accident victims against 3% for the Velib’). Above all, the majority of these accidents only concern the user, often a simple fall (nearly 70%), and less than 10% of these accidents involve a pedestrian, an argument most often used by detractors. “The number of accidents is progressing four times slower than the number of users”, welcomes Tier’s director of public affairs.
To achieve these results, the operators are demonstrating numerous technological and control advances: vehicle registration, obligation to prove that you are of age in order to be able to take out a subscription, speed limits and the introduction of “slow” zones. Geolocated by satellite, the speed of scooters is restricted to 6 or 10 km/h on forecourts, school streets and high-density areas, to improve pedestrian safety.
Also on the environmental aspect, they have improved the durability of their machines, as Xavier Gorse explains: “The first scooters had to be brought back to the warehouse to be recharged and their lifespan ranged from 6 months to 4 years. But with our new removable batteries that have a lifespan of between 7 and 10 years, we are helping to decarbonize the supply chain. »
Lack of will versus lack of collaboration
Even the social side is put in the balance by the operators who have nearly 800 employees in the capital between them: “We are always sent back to 2015 when the use of autoentrepreneurs was massive. But that’s been over since 2018. All our employees are on permanent or fixed-term contracts. They are shareholders of the company after a year, they have mutual insurance, a CSE and salaries higher than the collective agreement, ”retorts the general manager of Dott.
Progress that does not convince David Belliard: “These improvements are not directly due to them, but to a regulatory framework. We asked for a limitation of 10 km/in all of Paris, except for certain major axes, they made a gas machine with 700 zones and different limitations instead. According to the elected official, it was the pressure from the Town Hall and the balance of power that led to the growing security of scooters. “I see that Lime introduced a new technology to identify users who would double up. As if by chance, two weeks before the vote, when we have been asking them for two years. We are not going to organize a consultation every year to obtain progress. »
A vision that operators contradict. According to them, it is the difficult communication with the municipality that has complicated things for several months. “In September 2022, Emmanuel Grégoire and David Belliard called us to ask us for ways to improve all the problems mentioned. On October 10, we sent them a full, costed report of our proposals. We never heard back, not even an email, despite our reminders,” indignant Xavier Miraillès, who highlights his group’s collaboration with the other cities in which it is present.
Bad relations that David Belliard does not deny, who describes his relations with the operators as “courteous but difficult” while denying that the ban is a fad: “I understand the disappointment. If we could have extended the experience, we would have. But the cost-benefit ratio is largely in favor of the cost. “Simplification, appeasement, security of public space are his key words: “Do we really need to have this type of mobility which requires a lot of management on the part of the community and as much space dedicated audience? “ Response from Parisians this Sunday.