Paris voters on Sunday will decide whether to ban electric scooter rentals from the streets of the French capital, which pioneered the introduction of the divisive new form of urban transport.

The City of Lights was once home to companies like Lime, Dott and Tier with their short-distance rental scooters popular with young people.

After a messy rollout in 2018, city authorities have gradually tightened regulations, creating designated parking zones, capping speed limits and restricting the number of operators.

However, their presence remains controversial as pedestrians complain of reckless driving, while a spate of fatal accidents has highlighted the dangers of vehicles currently available for hire by children as young as 12.

“Scooter have become my biggest enemy. I’m scared of them,” Suzon Lambert, a 50-year-old teacher and Paris resident, told AFP. “Paris has become a kind of anarchy. There is no more room for pedestrians.”

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Such views are likely to dominate in the 21 polling booths set up in the French capital on Sunday, billing the election as a “public consultation” rather than a referendum by Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The pro-cycling socialist leader announced the January vote to settle the question of whether to allow them.

She supports a ban and called the devices a “source of tension and concern” for Parisians in an interview with AFP on Thursday.

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The consultation does not affect privately owned electric scooters, which the Department of Transportation says sold 700,000 nationwide last year.

Around 100,000 trips are made every day with rented e-scooters in around 200 cities and communities in France.

Transport Secretary Clement Beaune expects the poll to lead to a ban, while some operators also privately fear a negative outcome if their mostly young users don’t vote.

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“It’s an important consultation followed by many other cities in France and overseas,” Beaune told Radio Europe 1 on Wednesday.

“Instead of having ‘for’ or ‘against’, we could have ‘for, with rules,'” he said.

He argues that e-scooters are a valuable new transportation solution, having replaced up to one in five trips in Paris that would previously have involved an emission-generating vehicle.

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A total of 1.6 million people are eligible to vote, but turnout is expected to be low. The results are to be published in the evening.

A ban would be a backlash for operators and could encourage other cities to follow suit, but companies insist they are expanding elsewhere.

“Paris is swimming against the tide,” Hadi Karam, general manager for France at California’s Lime, told AFP, citing decisions to increase the number of e-scooters or extend contracts in Washington, Madrid or London.

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“There’s a trend towards these vehicles and that trend started in Paris, which was a pioneer,” he said. “Today everyone else is convinced and Paris decides to take a step in the other direction. That is incomprehensible to us.”

The vote also drew attention to the environmental footprint of e-scooters in a debate over whether they help reduce emissions, as in most cases they replace a trip that would previously have been made on foot or by public transport.

According to the Ministry of Transport, their batteries also have a short life expectancy of around three years on average.

“We think it’s a useful device,” Tony Renucci, head of charity Respire, which works to reduce air pollution, told AFP. “We should preserve it and not ban it.”


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