Paris on two wheels — or even one!

Published October 28, 2018
THERE are many pollution-free ways to drive in Paris.
THERE are many pollution-free ways to drive in Paris.

ANNE Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, is at the same time the most admired and the most despised personality of the French capital.

Her decision to ban automobile traffic on both banks has transformed river Seine into many calm and agreeable harbours where you can take a walk avoiding the traffic noises.

At a number of spots large boats that have been transformed into restaurants and cafés are anchored with tables and benches placed under the trees where the Parisians enjoy their drinks or meals sitting, much like in the nineteenth century, close to the flowing water.

At the same time there are those who were so used to driving fast by the river and are today unhappy being stuck in the city traffic, spending twice the time going to work and coming back home. As far as they are concerned, the mayor has destroyed their lives!

But today a new trauma is raising its head and Madam Hidalgo has little to do with it. These are the two-wheel means of transport, often even one-wheel, that have taken over not only the streets but also the sidewalks.

Theoretically speaking there is nothing wrong with using these pollution-free vehicles -traditional bicycles, two-wheel skateboards and single-wheel scooters run with manpower or electricity. But when one goes into the details, one discovers that things are getting a bit out of hand!

Given today’s technology thousands of these inventions are placed on street-corners and sidewalks -even on bridges over the river, canals or train tracks. You don’t have to buy them and all you are required to do is to contact the phone number, clearly visible on the handle, using your smartphone. You transfer your credit card details and the lock is undone automatically.

These satellite age conveyances are yours in less than a minute and you use them for as long as you need them, then abandon them anywhere you want. As they have no number plates and you require no driving license, you cannot be charged with any kind of traffic violation.

Accidents are frequent and many political leaders are demanding immediate and strict regulations. Citing last year’s statistics alone, daily Le Figaro recently reported 285 injury victims and five deaths following accidents between cars and these street rollers. Transport Minister Elizabeth Borne has announced she is working on the draft of a law with the intention of putting an end to this bedlam before things could get worse.

ONE-wheel scooter rider
ONE-wheel scooter rider

In a thorough investigation published last week, Le Figaro further reveals that the ‘micromobile industry’, as it is named by the paper, sold 1.73 million of these inventions to the French citizens in 2017 making a profit of 210 million euros and that by the end of this year the figure is likely rise further by some 30 million euros.

Questioned by the daily over the rising rate of accidents on the footpaths, a representative of the industry answered: “This problem can easily be solved by fixing a maximum speed limit to the ‘micromobiles’ on the sidewalks. I suggest this restraint to be around six kilometers per hour. That will surely take care of any further mishaps!”

Apparently not everyone agrees with this oversimplified postulation and responsible French citizens are reacting vigorously to end the crisis totally unforeseen only three years ago.

An association named Sixty Million on Feet that has the full support of the Mayor of Paris has been formed. Its spokesman Jean-Paul Lechevalier says:

“We will fight unbendingly so that the footpath must remain a sanctuary and an unshared refuge for the city dwellers. There are children going to schools and mothers carrying babies. Then there are disabled people who must be protected, not to forget a large number of pedestrians advanced in age and using walking sticks.”

The writer is a journalist based in Paris

ZafMasud@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2018

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