Despite the initiatives, self-service electric scooters are not yet universally accepted mobility in Paris. Here are the possible axes of improvement, technological or coming from elsewhere.
The self-service scooter in Paris is only 5 years old, and can still improve – Source: Unsplash/vladbjnr
On April 2, 2023, a rather unusual vote is open to Parisians to choose the future of one of the forms of mobility in the capital. The City of Paris has indeed chosen to set up a citizen vote to ban or not self-service scooters. Because these machines are debated in the public space.
On the one hand, some people love electric scooters, because it makes it possible to rent individual mobility at any time, in a practical, economical and more ecological way than a car. On the other hand, many problems hinder their acceptance: bad driving, illegal parking, etc. Not yet mature, the self-service scooter can nevertheless be improved thanks to many solutions.
Technologies preventing bad practices
If self-service scooters are hated by many Parisians, it’s because of their use. And precisely their misuse. You don’t have to drive very long to see users on the sidewalks, slalom between pedestrians, or even in pairs, practices that are totally prohibited.
To avoid them, the authorities can control, but cannot be everywhere. However, operators have technology in their hands. In July 2022, Lime, one of the three services present in Paris, presented an anti-pavement system. Self-service scooters can then detect sidewalks in 99% of cases, the company told us. However, this is still only at the pilot program stage. Too bad, because to have tried it, it is frankly functional: it forces the machines to decelerate up to 10 km/h in a few seconds.
Riding a Lime scooter for two, is it (soon) over? Source: Aroged
Another technology exposed by Lime: the two-person anti-driving system. Presented under the name of “Single Rider Detection System”, this technology was also presented in Paris. Proof that the will is there to restore this type of mobility and appease the spirits in the capital. In 30 seconds, the various sensors analyze pressure, weight or angle to detect the presence of an excess passenger, and block the self-service scooter. Downside, the system will not arrive for several months, and Lime wants to shorten the response time. Competitor Tier promises the same in early 2024.
Finally, operators have not yet planned to exclude certain users from self-service scooter platforms. In the event of repeated misuse, such as riding on a sidewalk or in pairs, the applications could systematically suspend the user’s account, and not on a case-by-case basis. It was part of the 11 proposals of Lime, Dott and Tier of November 2022, but not applied today.
Better cycling infrastructure to facilitate the use of self-service scooters
Paris is a gigantic web of 6,000 streets, avenues or boulevards and nearly 1,600 km to manage. The municipality began with bus lanes open to cyclists, then real cycling facilities, progressing from 200 km in 2001 to 1,094 km in 2021 thanks to the 2015-2021 cycling plan. And the ultimate goal of the next one (2021-2026) is to make Paris 100% cycle-friendly, and therefore accessible to self-service scooters. In practice, it is imperfect.
Because when we talk about a cycle or “trottinable”, we include separate, two-way tracks, cycle lanes or lanes. Some are even temporary, discontinuous, on sidewalks, and therefore sometimes dangerous on a scooter. Paris is sorely lacking in cycle paths separated from other traffic lanes, where the use of self-service scooters would be the most harmonious.
Because it is by offering wide lanes that we could prevent the last users from using the sidewalks, a safety choice for them (but not for pedestrians), or from zigzagging between cars. Barcelona could serve as a model. The Catalan capital has an excellent cycle network, which can still be improved, but with wide lanes, often separated, even colored to be visible to motorists.
Barcelona has a dense network of cycle paths for safer use of scooters – Source: Unsplash/linusekenstam
Other solutions, cycle streets, cycle streets (where the scooter rider can ride in the middle of the lane), or a clear priority development for soft mobility. Paris has already transformed rue de Rivoli to make it easy for self-service scooters and bicycles, and could deploy this type of lane on other strategic axes.
Force or encourage the use of the scooter helmet
The biggest risk for the ride-hailing scooter rider is head injury. The number of injured is increasing sharply in Paris, in line with their use, because it is easy to see that wearing a helmet is not yet a habit. Reminder: the helmet is not compulsory to ride an electric scooter in France, as for any other EDPM (Personal Motorized Transport Vehicle), unlike Spain for example.
Operators also have something to improve things. Already existing system, applications can force the user to take a picture with a helmet worn. For example, Dott has implemented the principle of the “helmeted selfie” in Lyon, but with a financial incentive, by reducing the price of the trip.
Wearing a helmet deserves an incentive, if not an obligation in self-service scooters.
Finally, is it necessary to have access to a helmet. A very punctual user or a tourist has no interest in spending several tens of euros for a few journeys. Operators could thus include a helmet on their self-service scooters. Paris could be inspired from Tel Aviv (Israel)where gear incorporates a secure helmet, in addition to a reduction in price if worn.
More self-service scooter parking
In 2018 when the first operators arrived, Paris was living in anarchy because of self-service scooters. They were everywhere: sidewalks, roads, cycle paths, parks, even in the Seine or the Saint-Martin canal… In five years, the efforts have been considerable, since the city has set up 2,500 reserved parking spaces. Nothing to say, then?
No, because according to the operators gathered in November 2022 to defend their service, Paris only had 0.87 places per scooter. Insufficient and therefore a hassle for users to find where to park their vehicle. Again, Tel Aviv stands out for its many locations, to avoid going around in circles. Some frustrated users are indeed tempted to leave their scooter at the point of arrival in the absence of nearby parking or free space.
Paris needs more spaces to park the 15,000 self-service scooters – Source: Unsplash/ride_with_pride
Another brake, because painted on the ground, these areas are not necessarily identifiable at first glance. Operators could deploy stations in Paris with a color that is visible from afar. This is what we see at Voi, in Copenhagen (Denmark) as well as in Stuttgart (Germany), where we immediately notice the red/pink color. In addition, these stations secure self-service scooters, locking them in racks. It is therefore impossible to steal the machines or make them fall in a domino.
Another possible technology, Pony has developed compulsory parking via photo, as in Poitiers. And yes, in order to be able to finish his self-service scooter race, the operator forces a photo of the machine parked on one of the reserved spaces. Otherwise, the journey continues and the user continues to pay (up to a maximum of 10 euros).
Clearly, the operators and the City of Paris have something to further improve the use of self-service scooters. Any new mobility questions, leads to debate, but can offer a real alternative. The car went through this in its infancy, and the scooter still has to make its mark before becoming a mobility like any other. So let’s pick good ideas wherever we can to create harmony with other vehicles and pedestrians.
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