PARIS (Reuters) - Electric scooter rental companies in Paris have seen a flood of new customers as strikes against the government’s pension reform plans crippled metro, bus and train networks.
Looking for alternative ways to get to work, Paris commuters have turned to walking, cycling, driving and using the electric scooters that have appeared in the city in the past two years.
“Since the beginning of the crisis our users increased by 500% because people need to travel, and we represent a real alternative to cars and today to public transport,” said Driss Ibenmansour, manager of scooter rental company Bird France.
He said that before the strikes began on Dec. 5, people would typically use Bird scooters for the last mile between the subway station and work or home, but now use the scooters - called “trotinettes” in French - for the entire route.
Foreign-owned companies including Lime and Bird, which are based in the United States, operate about 15,000 electric scooters in Paris.
“There is no subway so either I walk, take a scoot, cycle or drive. But going by car takes time, and with a scooter we don’t get tired,” said 21-year old Kanto Andrianalitiain.
Alexandre Monsarrat said it took him 15 minutes to get home from work by scooter, compared to an hour by car in traffic jams caused by the strikes.
Lime said last week the number of trips per day had risen 90% during the strikes. Between Dec. 5 and Dec. 13, Lime saw a 530% increase in average new users and signed up 64,000 new customers, the company said.
Scooter operator Dott, which has 3,200 scooters in Paris, said new user numbers had risen tenfold during the strike.
Some commuters say that with rates of one euro to unlock a scooter and about 20 cents per minute to ride, scooter rentals can be expensive for everyday use over long distances, and some have bought their own.
“It is more practical to have your own scooter. It is cheaper and you always know where to find it,” said Orianne Denot.
Writing by Geert De Clercq, Editing by Timothy Heritage