Electric Scooters (e-scooters) are the latest addition to the convenience and clean energy transport revolution. These battery-powered vehicles are, at first glance, just a motorised twist on a foot-propelled classic. However, their popularity has boomed over the past 12 months with more and more private e-scooters being spotted around Glenferrie Hawthorn and the introduction of the public shared e-scooter trial in some council areas.
In February this year, the Victorian Government in partnership with the Cities of Melbourne, Yarra, Port Phillip and Ballarat, teamed up with electric vehicle companies, Lime and Neuron to undertake trials of the 1,500 high-powered, brightly-coloured devices. The trials will gauge the public’s reaction to this ‘new’ form of shared transport. Vic Roads also explains that they are looking to “understand the benefits and risks associated with this new transport technology and to test if these vehicles can safely fit into the state’s transport network”.
The Department of Transport (DOT) along with Victoria Police are closely monitoring the trials, which have proved popular. DOT spokesperson Natalie Szabo stated, “Melbourne’s e-scooter trial is progressing well, with over 830,000 rides taken since it began in February ”. Natalie also confirmed that rider safety is a ‘built-in’ feature. “The e-scooter operators have implemented a range of safety initiatives like providing helmets, a 000 Emergency Button, ‘topple detection’ and a ‘follow my ride’ GPS function.” The trial public share e-scooters are permitted to travel on roads where the speed limit is below 60kph; have a pre-set 20kph speed limit; and include a ‘geofencing’ feature which restricts travel to within a set parameter. In contrast, private e-scooters can not be capable of travel faster than 10kph and must have a maximum power output of 200 watts to be used legally in public areas. If a private e-scooter meets these requirements they must follow the same rules as foot-propelled scooters which can only be used on footpaths, bicycle paths, and shared paths.
Vic Roads acknowledges that “most newer model e-scooters exceed [the] thresholds … and therefore cannot be used on Victorian public roads or footpaths at this time; they can only legally be ridden on private property”. Victoria Police commented that private e-scooter use infringements have increased. The fine for riding an illegal e-scooter is $909. As for user awareness around the laws of public shared e-scooter use, the app for the vehicle itself provides a crash course in avoiding a fine. “Riders must sign up to a comprehensive list of riding rules before they are allowed to take their first trip.” The DOT explains, “these rules highlight that riders must be over 18, wear a helmet and that only one person is allowed on an e-scooter at a time”. Rules extend to normal transport regulations such as obeying traffic light signals and not riding under the influence of alcohol - police are known to breathalyse riders - as well as where you can legally park and ride.
The DOT did not outline any major problems with the trial so far, but did say, “while it is disappointing that some riders ignore the rules, most are riding responsibly”. Victoria Police spokesperson, Erin Mitchell warned that “Victoria Police will be actively enforcing the e-scooter trial regulations – anyone caught in breach of the rules will be subject to significant penalties”. While the trial is underway, the discrepancies in laws affecting private and the public share e-scooters remain vast. Whether or not these trials will result in the equalising of the laws for all e-scooter riders remains to be seen.
Given the increasing presence of private e-scooters in Glenferrie Hawthorn and the trials in nearby councils, The Glenferrie Times approached the City of Boroondara about e-scooter use and they responded explaining that “council hasn’t considered this matter at this stage”. As the trials continue and private use rises in popularity, e-scooters are yet to settle their place in the transport network.