Why the French are setting fire to e-scooters

A firefighter works to extinguish a blaze of e-scooters during violent clashes - Kiran Ridley
A firefighter works to extinguish a blaze of e-scooters during violent clashes - Kiran Ridley
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French protesters have thrown e-scooters onto piles of burning rubbish during violent demonstrations against President Macron’s pension reforms.

Video footage shows protesters, many of them masked, setting fire to e-scooters, plastic wheelie bins and piles of uncollected rubbish.

Pedestrians had to cover their mouths with scarves as black smoke billowed from the burning debris and firefighters tried to extinguish the flames.

Rubbish collectors have been on strike for more than a fortnight in several French cities, meaning that huge amounts of uncollected refuse are clogging the streets.

Rubbish collectors have been on strike for more than a fortnight in several French cities - AFP
Rubbish collectors have been on strike for more than a fortnight in several French cities - AFP

In a day of chaos on Thursday, protesters smashed shop windows and bus shelters, ransacked a McDonald’s and clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas.

More than 440 police officers were injured in the clashes, the French government said. In Paris alone, protesters lit more than 900 fires.

More than 450 people were arrested. Thursday was the most violent day since protests began in January.

E-scooters are controversial in France, as they are in many other countries.

Paris will hold a referendum on April 2 in which the city’s inhabitants will decide whether to ban the 15,000 electric scooters that are available for hire.

While some Parisians see them as a convenient and eco-friendly way of traveling around the capital, others say they are frequently dumped on pavements, tossed into the Seine and pose a danger to pedestrians.

The mayor, Anne Hidalgo, is said to be in favour of banning the fleets of rental scooters.

There were 22 scooter-related deaths in in Paris in 2021 and seven in 2020.

In Le Havre, video footage showed dock workers using a fork-lift truck to dump cars and even a caravan on top of burning piles of wooden palettes and tyres.

Groups of dockers filmed the scene on their mobile phones.

There have been nine days of strikes and demonstrations across France in protest against legislation which will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Around a million people took to the streets on Thursday and the entrance to the town hall in Bordeaux was set on fire.

“I have difficulty in understanding and accepting this sort of vandalism,” the mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, told RTL radio on Friday.

“Why would you make a target of our communal building, of all people of Bordeaux? I can only condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”