Paris sees first e-scooter death as concern grows over vehicle’s safety

A woman uses an Lime-S electric scooter of the US company Lime in Paris on March 3, 2019.
A woman uses an Lime-S electric scooter of the US company Lime in Paris on March 3, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) – A man died in Paris after his electric scooter collided with a lorry, sources said on Tuesday (June 11), the first such fatality involving the increasingly popular devices in the French capital as concern grows over their safety.

The 25-year-old was riding the scooter in the bustling Goutte d’Or neighbourhood in the north of the city when the accident happened late on Monday.

He was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries, the Paris emergency services said.

The lorry driver has been detained, with prosecutors opening an investigation into “involuntary homicide”.

A source close to the case, who asked not to be named, said the lorry driver had priority on the road at the time.

It was the first deadly accident involving an electric scooter within the city limits, police and the mayor’s office confirmed.

According to press reports, an 81-year-old man died in April in Levallois-Perret outside Paris, days after being knocked over by an electric scooter.

‘TOTALLY ANARCHIC’ 

Just a year after they first appeared on the Paris streets, mushrooming electric scooters have become a gigantic headache for the Paris authorities who are now rushing to implement some kind of framework for their use.

Monday’s deadly accident has “underlined the need to emphasise the elementary rules that users must respect”, deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told AFP.

“The police need to act to penalise users who, for example, cross a red light,” he said.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a ban last Thursday on parking electric scooters on the pavement and said their speed on roads should be limited to 20kmh.

Paris has already introduced fines of €135 (S$209) for riding electric scooters on the pavement.

Fans have embraced scooters as a quick and cheap way to get around, since the "dockless" devices are unlocked with a phone app and can be left anywhere when a ride is finished.

 
 

But critics say they are a grave safety risk both for users and pedestrians while scooters strewn randomly across the city have also become an eyesore.

French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne on Tuesday said she was in favour of new mobility options but admitted the development of the scooter market was “totally anarchic, and this poses safety problems”.

She said legislation would be in the pipeline later this year to provide a framework on rules for scooter usage.

But the government was still against making it obligatory to wear a helmet on a scooter or on a bicycle for the over 12s, she said.

“The French are tired of having obligations imposed on them. What we recommend is a helmet is worn and everyone takes their responsibility,” she said.

The mobility benefits of scooters, as well as the dangers inherent in using them, is making their increasing popularity an issue not just in France but across Europe.

Germany in May authorised battery-powered scooters on its streets and cycle paths but banned them from pavements to protect pedestrians.

Also in May, a young man aged 27 died after being hit by a car while riding an electric scooter just after they were launched in the Swedish city of Helsingborg.