E-scooter trial extension: fun and convenience versus safety

E-scooter trial extension: fun and convenience versus safety
Simon Harvey

The Melbourne e-scooter trial has been extended, and e-scooters are here to stay.

The Minister for Public Transport recently announced that there was “more work to do on safety and compliance to ensure that e-scooters are safe when they’re made permanent later this year”. This seems to me to be a welcome development, however, the task of ensuring safety and compliance is significant.

In the March 2021 edition of North West City News (NWCN) I opined that “cars and trucks [on our roads], particularly at speed are the surest way to thwart the evolution of any community ambience”. Surely all residents would support enhancing “community ambience”, so this move towards enabling smaller scale personal mobility vehicles seems a good one, however, residents are also concerned about safety.

We know some speed-freaks and hotheads are more into their adrenaline rush than they are into community and personal safety. In December 2023 the Australian Medical Association called for stricter rules around e-scooters given the significant level of injury because of their use.

In March 2022 (NWCN), a month before private e-scooters became legal in the public domain, I told the story of my own scooter jaunt, and wondered how police are actually going to catch e-scooter speedsters. I’m still wondering.

I’ve been at meetings at Melbourne Town Hall where police recognised the problem but seemed to be searching for solutions. I suggested a “posse of police riding V8 equivalent scooters”. How else are they going to catch them? It’s clearly a compliance problem; I suggest more of a “human nature” issue than a “rules and regs” issue.

In March 2022 private e-scooters were the problem – they were illegal and there was an inconsistency between the regulation of e-scooters and e-bikes. While this has more or less been solved since they’ve been legalised, there is still a problem with e-skateboards.

While they are frequently sighted on paths and roads, they are still illegal in Victoria, but legal in some other states. The safety and compliance issues are identical to those for e-scooters.

I believe we can welcome the expansion of transport options (like e-scooters) that are of smaller scale, environmentally friendly, and convenient. Compliance with speed and safety regulations will probably remain a problem to wrestle with, both for injury prevention, and for “community ambience”.

I’m thinking about pedestrian needs (the old “Shank’s pony”). Pedestrians are also using smaller scale “transport”, and are often unnerved by the weaving, swerving and speed of bikes, scooters, and skateboards. Especially in communities like Kensington and North Melbourne, with growing populations, and closely connected commercial precincts.

The safety of pedestrians should be a top priority; we should aim for a pedestrian-friendly ambience. •

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