As the months wind down on Paris’s e-scooter licenses, the three companies operating in the city are prepping their cases for renewal – and expansion of the scheme.
In 2020, Paris cracked down on the number of e-scooter sharing companies. One time up to 12 companies were active on its street. Under Mayor Anne Hidalgo that was cut to three with a tendering process to ensure stricter rules are adhered to.
All the while the French capital has embarked on an ambitious plan to make the city cycle-friendly and to reduce car congestion.
E-scooters have proven popular among Parisians but it has not been smooth sailing for e-scooter companies. City officials have flagged issues around misuse like sidewalk riding and reckless parking.
As licenses come up for renewal in March 2023, one of the operators in the city, Dott, has filed a proposal with city hall to improve the scheme and keep it alive. Tier and Lime are the other operators in the city.
“[City officials] asked us to come to discuss the next phase. They are extremely obviously demanding, which was the same thing in the first place and that’s probably why Paris has been the capital of micromobility since 2020,” Nicolas Gorse, chief business officer, said.
“We had this meeting where they said you need to improve on parking, need to improve and demonstrate on the environment [impact] and you need to influence safety and we want concrete proposals and statistics in order to make [up] our mind.”
There are around 15,000 e-scooters in operation in Paris with Dott operating 5,000 of those. Paris has built more than 2,500 parking spots for e-scooters.
Effectively enforcing parking remains a big issue. Gorse said some parking spots are being used much more than others and that Dott and its rivals must figure out the “equation” around where to effectively place parking spots.
Gorse said that there are still issues with car drivers parking in these spots.
City officials have urged the three operators to collaborate on a joint resolution to the parking issue and other challenges.
Tier, the German outfit that also operates in the city, said it is engaging with city officials to address these issues.
Erwann Le Page, director of public policy for Western Europe at Tier, said in a statement that there has been a “worrying rise” in e-scooter and other micromobility accidents but efforts are being made to curtail that.
“In fact shared e-scooters are safer in many cases as we implement speed limits, mandatory parking zones and no-ride zones in the city and we ban users who are caught riding anti-socially,” Le Page said.
“We are open to working with the municipal police to continue to improve the safety of our service, and we continue to call for segregated micromobility infrastructure, keeping pedestrians, e-scooter riders and cyclists and cars separated, reducing the chances of a collision.”
A spokesperson for Lime, the third operator in the city, echoed similar comments on how to move forward in Paris.
“We continue to have productive conversations with the City about the future of the shared e-scooter program in Paris. With some important improvements, we’re optimistic that Parisians’ overwhelming support for e-scooters and the value they provide the city as an emissions-free transportation option will ultimately lead to the program’s renewal,” the spokesperson said.
Dott’s Gorse said that it is vital that the companies share data around e-scooter usage with the local government to help inform investment decisions on cycling and other non-car infrastructure.
“We have to continuously share all data in order to ensure that the city adapts infrastructure to the usage that’s currently being done.”
Other issues like sidewalk riding remain a challenge.
“The key there is how do we influence behavior? We think that the key with sidewalk riding is for people to understand that this is forbidden. Not only for them to understand that this is forbidden, but that if they do it, they would be liable for an actual fine,” Gorse added.
Another demand that Dott and others are facing from Paris officials is to demonstrate their environmental credentials.
Micromobility companies have long touted their emissions-free form of transport.
“The thing is, does a scooter last long enough to compensate for the emission that was done when it was built? For this we are very openly sharing our data,” Gorse said.
According to Dott, the e-scooters it put on the streets in 2019 are still in operation and it expects its current models to have a lifespan of five years.
Gorse said Dott’s Paris fleet is charged with renewable energy and said that current sky-high energy costs in Europe will have limited effect on its operations as the cost to charge one scooter is still low.
“Yes [the cost of energy] could be doubled, could be tripled, could be multiplied by five, but it’s still going to be a negligible amount as comparison to our other costs because the scooter is so frugal in terms of energy consumption,” he said.
“This is something we’re looking at, this is something we’re concerned about, but this is not something that could put our business model at risk or that would result in a significant price increase.”