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In the light of the 2024 Olympics, bicycle taxis aim to revolutionize transport in Paris

They zip through the streets, carrying their passengers behind a driver pedaling at full speed.

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In the light of the 2024 Olympics, bicycle taxis aim to revolutionize transport in Paris

They zip through the streets, carrying their passengers behind a driver pedaling at full speed. Over the past few months, bicycle taxis have gradually taken their mark in the Parisian public space. If there were already a few independents who carried out errands on their own account, several companies have been established for almost a year, such as Bimboum and Turtle, which have the strong ambition to compete with Parisian taxis and other VTCs.

Their solution offers, in their eyes, low prices, combined with a fast, efficient and clean solution. So many assets that can appeal to a clientele that has become more and more attached to bicycles since the pandemic. “We are legally a bicycle, which allows us to use cycle paths and bus lanes and since we are not a car, we have reduced operational costs and we do not suffer from traffic congestion,” explains Robin Bourraindeloup, the co-founder and general manager of Turtle, who presents his model as a real "alternative to taxis and VTC in Paris".

On the price side, the latter claims to apply rates “30 to 50% cheaper” than professionals in the passenger transport sector, “especially during the day” for a service “on average 20% faster”. What hope to win the support of Parisians, known to be in a hurry but no less demanding. After a first phase of successful experimentation, launched six months ago with five bicycle taxis, Turtle is now at the head of a fleet of around twenty vehicles and expects "at least to have around a hundred for the Olympics”.

A goal shared by Bimboum, a bicycle taxi company initially designed to offer a door-to-door transport service for the visually impaired, which does not hide its ambition to actively participate in this meeting, especially for its Paralympic part. With “comfortable and secure” two-wheelers, equipped with a “luggage compartment” and capable of carrying one to two passengers, the company thus intends to meet the needs of people with reduced mobility.

“Today, there is a real hole in the racket for people with disabilities, while there are plenty of travel solutions for able-bodied people,” underlines Christopher Corrigan, co-founder of Bimboum, for whom the Paralympic Games will "be the event that speeds things up". If today, his company operates "a handful of bicycles", it should indeed "raise funds" and "triple" its fleet by 2024.

And the issue, according to him, is “all the more important for the Olympics” than for the question of last mile travel. “What solutions can we offer for people who cannot move? And what legacy are we going to leave after the Olympics in terms of cycling infrastructure?”, he wonders, convinced of the opportunity to “prove” the interest of his concept. For him, the practice should not be confined to "walks on the banks of the Seine", referring to the many tourist traps that have swarmed for almost 10 years all around the tourist sites of the capital.

"This is not a tuk-tuk", launches Bimboum on its website, thus wishing to dissociate itself from the often illegal practice of certain drivers who break the rules related to the sector. As a reminder, since the promulgation of the LOM law, companies have the obligation to use “assisted pedaling cycles” driven by the owner or his employee. “Adapted” vehicles, which must meet “technical and comfort conditions and on which visible signage must be affixed”. In addition, drivers must "meet a condition of professional good repute and prove that they are fit to drive on public roads" and "have an insurance contract covering their civil liability in terms of vehicles and transport of persons”. In addition, vehicle registration is compulsory.

Finally, it should be noted that in application of article L.3120-2 of the transport code, bicycle-taxis companies are subject, like VTCs, to the obligation of prior reservation, but are exempt from a professional card (L .3120-2-2 of the transport code). In concrete terms, this therefore means that it is strictly forbidden to hail them or to board after having met them in the street. As a result, most of the races carried out by these tuk-tuks are in fact "outlawed", so much so that the Paris Police Prefecture (PP) began last year to carry out control operations, " committing significant resources to securing the tourist sectors of the capital conducive to the development of this activity”, specifies the institution.

Asked about this, the PP announced that it had carried out 9 operations, between mid-June 2022 and the end of April 2023, “mobilizing 160 police personnel”. During this period, a total of 541 vehicles were thus checked, for 702 offenses noted, including 17 misdemeanors. Checks that led to 8 arrests, 51 vehicles impounded and 30 others destroyed. Opposite, Turtle and Bimboum recall for their part scrupulously respecting the rules of the Highway Code, take care themselves of the training of their drivers, who are also hired on permanent contracts, and ensure that they are working on better regulation of the work of bicycle taxis. The first by participating in the creation of an insurance that does not yet exist and the second by imagining more comfortable and more efficient bike-taxis.

A professionalization of this mode of mobility that the taxi and VTC sector (transport cars with driver, editor's note) do not see very favorably. "By what right are they called 'taxis'? The transport of people is very regulated, there is a training course to follow, a competition to pass and a license to have in order to be able to be called “taxis”. It's nonsense, ”protests Arnaud Desdonner, secretary general of the association of VTCs in France.

He who explains that he is fighting "very difficult battles" in Paris, where VTCs are not allowed to use the bus lanes or the rue de Rivoli, nor to access the spaces reserved for taxis in the stations, with " very large disparities between taxis and VTC”, evokes bluntly the death of the profession. "Why not amphibious bikes on the Seine or bike-vans to drive customers to airports?", he wonders, assuring that by accepting these new forms of mobility, the City of Paris risks "killing a profession to replace it with another".

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