France lays out new rules to rein in e-scooters

Simon VALMARY
Most of the new rules come into effect Saturday except for those that require hardware tweaks -- such as a maximum speed bar -- which will start on July 1. (AFP Photo/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

Paris (AFP) - The French government issued Friday a series of rules on the use of e-scooters, whose exploding popularity has proved a headache for officials seeking to safely incorporate them into crowded urban landscapes.

Speeds for e-scooters as well as hoverboards, monowheels and other motorised "personal transporters" will now be capped at 25 kilometres (15 miles) per hour for riders who must be at least 12 years old, junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said in a statement.

Riding on sidewalks will be prohibited unless a city permits them in certain areas, and at walking speed only.

And tourists beware: No more zipping around two at a time while snapping selfies. Only one rider per device, and as is the case for drivers and cyclists, no mobile phone use will be allowed.

Most of the new rules come into effect Saturday except for those that require technology tweaks -- such as speed control -- which will start on July 1.

Djebbari said they will encourage "more responsible use... and restore a sense of tranquility for pedestrians, in particular the most vulnerable: the elderly, children and handicapped people."

As in cities worldwide, Paris is grappling with how to handle the roughly 15,000 "dockless" scooters that have flooded its streets since last year.

A ban on parking them on sidewalks largely goes unheeded despite the threat of a 35-euro ($40) fine, and scooters can be found strewn over parks and squares across the French capital.

City Hall plans to cut the number of operators to three by issuing tender offers in the coming months, down from a peak of 12 earlier this year.

Already in June around half had withdrawn or suspended operations in Paris, citing high maintenance costs -- vandalism remains a problem, as with the city's Velib bike-share system -- and fierce competition.

The move will come once lawmakers pass the government's so-called Mobility law to govern free-float scooter sharing systems.

But critics say the rules may not be enough to address safety concerns for pedestrians as well as riders.

Last weekend, a 25-year-old man was killed and a young woman seriously injured after the scooter they were riding was struck by a car in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

At least five other scooter deaths have been reported in France, including Paris and its suburbs and the eastern city of Reims.

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