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Paris to hold referendum on e-scooter rental services

Parisians will be invited to vote on whether to allow electric scooter rental services to continue operating in the city as authorities weigh banning the controversial for-hire vehicles, the capital’s mayor has said.

The issue is “extremely divisive”, mayor Anne Hidalgo told the weekend edition of Le Parisien newspaper, with critics saying riders show only cursory respect for the rules of the road.

They often defy bans on riding on pavements, or park without consideration, while some abandon the scooters in parks or even toss them into the Seine river.

Fans meanwhile praise the zippy fleets — totalling 15,000 scooters operated by companies Lime, Dott and Tier — as a fast, non-polluting alternative to cars or crowded public transport.

Hidalgo said Paris residents would be asked “a very simple question” in the referendum planned for April 2: “Do we or don’t we continue with free-floating rental scooters?”

The mayor said she herself was leaning towards a ban but would “respect Parisians’ vote”.

A ban would make Paris an exception among major cities.

In September, the capital already threatened the three operators with non-renewal of their licences, which expire in March, if they failed to limit reckless riding and other “misuses”.

The operators in November came up with a number of suggested improvements, including equipping the scooters with licence plates that would allow easier tracking of riders running a red light, or travelling in pairs on the single-person vehicles — both common violations.

But David Belliard, Hidalgo’s deputy in charge of urban transport, still said a cost-benefit analysis did not favour the rental schemes.

“They are in the way and they are dangerous,” he told AFP, saying he favoured a ban to “pacify our streets and pavements”.

There was “too much negative feedback” from citizens about the scooters, he said.

Hidalgo told Le Parisien meanwhile that privately owned scooters, also hugely popular in the capital, were not targeted in the referendum. They are “not a problem”, she said.