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Paris Cracks Down On Scooters, Bans Them From Being Parked On Sidewalks

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There's been an explosion of rented electric scooters on the streets of Paris this year, and until recently, there weren't any rules or regulations for the companies renting the scooters. Jake Cigainero reports that the city is now cracking down on those rentals.

JAKE CIGAINERO, BYLINE: It seemed to happen overnight - Paris was full of electric scooters for rent, clogging walkways, grazing pedestrians as they zipped by and drawing the ire of car drivers.

ARNAUD MARION: Nobody was aware of the consequences of the scooters in Paris.

CIGAINERO: That's Arnaud Marion, the president of Smovengo, the company that operates Paris' famous public bicycle share system Velib. He says unlike the Velib bikes, which have to be returned to specially designated docks, the scooters caused chaos on the sidewalks.

MARION: And people can leave them wherever they want. So from one day to the other, people had to manage in the footpaths with these scooters, which created difficulties for old people, for disabled people, for the moms with their children.

CIGAINERO: Around a year ago, 12 rental companies dumped about 20,000 electric scooters on the already-crowded streets of Paris. The mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said it was time to end the anarchy. The new rules limit the speed of the scooters and prohibit riding and parking on the sidewalk. Now half of the companies have since pulled out, and scooter users now have to fight with motorcycle owners for the limited parking spaces. The mayor of Marseilles says he's following the Paris mayor's lead, and the French transport minister said she's planning national legislation.

Supporters of the scooters say they will help reduce Paris' traffic and cut pollution, both goals of Mayor Hidalgo. Mikaela Rene uses a bicycle to get around Paris, but she does not have a problem with the scooters.

MIKAELA RENE: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: "Cars are a bigger problem," she says, "since they pollute more."

RENE: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: "This whole controversy about electric scooters, maybe it's a bit exaggerated," Rene says. Parisian Lea Marcq says she's also not entirely against the scooters but thinks the city needs to do even more to regulate them.

LEA MARCQ: Actually, I've seen, like, me maybe three accidents with scooters and cars. The scooters drive very fast, and it's now dangerous for the pedestrians.

CIGAINERO: Jackie Kai Ellis a Canadian who lives in Paris, is a big fan of the trottinette, as they're called in French.

JACKIE KAI ELLIS: (Laughter) I really love them, yeah.

CIGAINERO: She uses the scooters twice a day because they're faster than the subway.

KAI ELLIS: Like, a metro ride would take 25 minutes, whereas sometimes a trottinette will be, like, seven-minute ride. You can just pick one up and then drop it off.

CIGAINERO: You can be fined $150 for riding on the sidewalk. But Kaiellis says the ubiquitous construction around Paris means she has to do it sometimes.

KAI ELLIS: But when I do, I go really, really slow (laughter). I do get yelled at sometimes by people. But, I mean, it's just still all kind of the whole part of it.

CIGAINERO: People are also concerned about the number of accidents. Earlier this year, a pianist for the Paris Opera was bowled over by a scooter, fracturing her arm, and in June, a 25-year-old man riding a scooter in car traffic was killed in a collision with a truck.

For NPR News, I'm Jake Cigainero, in Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAY SOM'S "BAYBEE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.