Scooters – to E or not to E?

News that Paris is to ban rented e-scooters from September after a public consultation in which there was a very low turn out, but in which most of those who did turn out were very antagonistic to e-scooters, poses a number of questions.

3 people have been killed in e-scooter accidents and 459 injured in 2022.

To put this is perspective, the French government’s road traffic safety annual report noted that across the whole of France “In 2020, there were 45,121 injury accidents in metropolitan France. 2,541 people were killed within 30 days of their accident, including 391 pedestrians, 7 users of personal mobility devices (such as electric scooters), 178 cyclists, 100 moped riders, 479 motorcyclists, 1,243 motorists, 59 users of commercial vehicles, 33 users of heavy goods vehicles.

It should be noted that e-scooters are a sub set of PMVs, but that, in nay case, this is by far the smallest source of fatal traffic accidents. That looks like this on a graph. The PMV segment is the little sliver at just before “12 o clock”. Though these figures are from 2020, Its unlikely that these proportion s have changed qualitatively since then.

The report goes on to note that, across France as a whole in 2020 “The number of users killed on e-scooters and other motorised personal mobility devices (PMD) is stable in 2020, but the number of people injured increases by 40%, also reflecting an increase in use since the end of the first lockdown. This number is still 5 times lower than the number of people injured on bicycles in urban areas.”

If fatalities and injuries are the issue, banning motor vehicles would have far more impact on reducing them. In fact, if the increased popularity of e-scooters in Paris has, as the Guardian reports, cut out one in five journeys that would otherwise have been carried out by car, motorbike or moped, then it is reasonable to extrapolate that, given the much higher fatality rate in collisions involving these vehicles, there have been fewer deaths as a result of e-scooters being available for hire.

As a new form of urban transport, better regulation would be a better way to go. As one opponent admitted “its better than it was”. Technical adjustments to limit potential speed and stricter enforcement of pavement surfing bans and “zipping in and out of traffic” alongside expansion of bike routes. Clear rules for users displayed on the handlebars and in tourist guides. Teaching in schools on the same lines as cycling proficiency classes. All that would have an effect worth having if we want to reduce the overall impact of motorised traffic.

So, on these figures, cars are 36 times more lethal than PMVs.

Part of the problem perhaps is that we expect cars to kill us. The background stress of car centred cities, all that noise, motion and potential threat swishing by us constantly, which we only notice when its suddenly not there in a place we expect it to be. Several thousand fatalities a year has become taken for granted. Wallpaper. It should not be. And the problems posed by other modes of transport should be considered in a proportionate way.

Debates about modes of urban transport in Paris – and even in other cities where cars are driven with less panache – should take in all modes of transport at the same time, so we can properly rebalance the ways we get around.

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