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Besieged by electric scooters, Paris lays down the law

June 6, 2019
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Pianist at Paris' famed Opera, Sabelle Vanbrabant, poses for a photo Wednesday June 5, 2019, in Paris, after she was knocked over by an electric scooter while walking home last month, and suffered multiple fractures to her right arm. The city's sidewalks have become something of a battleground between riders and pedestrians, and now Paris is cracking down on free-floating electric scooters after an anarchic year that saw 20,000 of the vehicles flood the streets since last summer. (AP Photo/Nadine Achoui-Lesage)

PARIS (AP) — Paris is cracking down on electric scooters after an anarchic year in which startups flooded the city’s streets with their vehicles.

The French capital has 12 free-floating scooter operators, more than the entire United States, according to a study released Thursday, and about 20,000 of the two-wheeled vehicles. Broken scooters end up in some of the city’s famed gardens or are even tossed over bridges into the Seine, and the city’s sidewalks have become something of a battleground between riders and pedestrians.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo says electric scooters have fallen into a legal gray zone and after repeated complaints and a spate of injuries and near-misses, the mayor and police want to limit speeds to 20 kilometers per hour (12 mph) in most areas, and 8 kilometers per hour (5 mph) in areas with heavy foot traffic, and prohibit parking anywhere but designated spaces. Hidalgo also plans to limit the number of operators to three and cap the number of scooters.

The city already imposes 135-euro ($150) fines for riding on the sidewalk and 35-euro fines for blocking the sidewalk while parked. Operators are charged by the city for any broken scooters that need to be picked up by municipal workers.

“We need order and rules to assure road safety and to calm the streets, sidewalks and neighborhoods of our city,” Hidalgo said Thursday.

For Isabelle Vanbrabant, any regulations are too late. The pianist at Paris’ famed Opera was coming home from work last month and walking across a square near Les Halles when a rider on an electric scooter came up from behind, knocking her over and continuing on his way. She fell on her right arm, suffering multiple fractures. She yelled for the rider to return, which he then did, and to call for help. Her prognosis is uncertain.

“I need this hand, I need to have it back,” she said.

About a third of electric scooter riders in France are foreign tourists, according to the study by 6t-bureau conducted for a French government agency specializing in transport.

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Oleg Cetinic and Nadine Achoui-Lesage contributed.

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