Sunshine Coast scooter horror shines spotlight on ‘patchwork’ laws

A “patchwork” of conflicting laws governing electric scooters is putting riders and pedestrians at risk, warn experts who say they should be streamlined to prevent serious injuries.

Jan 05, 2023, updated Jan 05, 2023
Each participant will receive $1300 in transport "credits" to fund new travel methods. (Photo: Supplied).

Each participant will receive $1300 in transport "credits" to fund new travel methods. (Photo: Supplied).

The transport researchers also called bans on privately owned e-scooters “head-in-the-sand stuff” that could hinder public education about the technology.

The warning comes after a serious e-scooter incident left a NSW man in an induced coma on Wednesday, and days after two Queensland teenagers suffered “critical injuries” following an e-scooter accident involving a car.

It also follows results from a Melbourne e-scooter trial that revealed participants had taken an average of 8100 trips a day on the vehicles but also recorded 252 crashes over the year, attracted 827 infringement notices, and had seen 15 privately owned scooters impounded.

Stephen Coulter, co-founder of micro mobility risk management firm Zipidi, said Melbourne and other Australian cities should be congratulated for hosting e-scooter trials.

But he said inconsistent rules for e-scooters were holding back their adoption and creating dangerous mixed messages for riders.

Melburnians who rent e-scooters must not use them on footpaths, for example, and must be 18 years old. By comparison, Brisbane e-scooter users can ride on footpaths and must be at least 12 years old, if supervised by an adult.

Victoria – like NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory – also bans the use of privately owned e-scooters in public areas.

Mr Coulter said these bans were “head-in-the-sand stuff” and meant thousands of riders were missing out on education about their safe use.

“Because private e-scooters are illegal, there’s no government communication or education on what the laws are and what the vehicle standards are for safe riding,” he said.

“In NSW and Victoria, there’s more than 100,000 electric scooters that have been sold and are being actively used, based on what we’re hearing from retailers.

“The governments are way behind the times and they need to legalise electric scooters immediately so there can be better community education.”

Australia Institute director Noah Schultz-Byard said e-scooters had now been trialled in many Australian cities including western Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and Hobart, where they had been used to replace car trips and connect public transport journeys.

But differences in what types of electric scooters were allowed in public, where they were allowed to ride, and at what speeds had created a “really confusing situation for consumers”, he said.

“A lot of the time people don’t know whether they’re allowed to take an e-scooter that they may have gotten for Christmas out on to the street at all,” Mr Schultz-Byard said.

“The popularity of these trials shows there is a space in our community where this new transport technology can fill a void. Unfortunately, the regulation hasn’t kept up with the technology.”

Mr Coulter said Queensland had the “closest to best practice” rules for e-scooters that he said should be adopted nationwide, with local agencies setting speed limits.

“Our view is that the rest of Australia could do a lot worse than simply adopt the Queensland laws and have some consistency across the country,” he said.

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