New audio warning for illegal footpath riders in e-scooter crackdown

New audio warning for illegal footpath riders in e-scooter crackdown
David Schout

New “in-app communication” trial sees scooters telling off their non-compliant riders.

A fleet of camera-equipped e-scooters have been rolled out in Melbourne, with new technology giving riders an audio warning for tandem riding and illegal travel on footpaths.

The 25 scooters from operator Lime feature “advanced camera capabilities” and will tell non-compliant riders to cease footpath travel, which is illegal in Victoria.

The “in-app communication” trial, now under way on Swanston and Elizabeth streets and in Jolimont, will also direct riders to park in designated zones to avoid footpath clutter in busy areas.

Early reports suggest the trial had reduced complaints by 55 per cent.

Unlike most other states and territories where electric scooter users can ride on footpaths, travel in Victoria is restricted to streets and bike/shared paths.

The City of Melbourne wants to crack down on those doing the wrong thing, to prevent incidents with pedestrians.

“[We] recognise that there has been frustration felt by members of the community about people breaking the rules and causing nuisance around the city. We have listened and we have acted,” Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said.

“We have worked with the providers, Lime and Neuron Mobility, who are rolling out new technology advancements that will deliver safer and more accessible city for all Melburnians.”

“We are also working closely with Victoria Police to ensure the small minority of people doing the wrong thing are held accountable.”

Cr Reece, who owns a private e-scooter, said in an interview with 3AW that the council received “a lot of complaints”, and that bad behaviour on scooters was particularly evident “late in the evening”.

 

I reckon they’re a lot of fun. I’d like to see them continue in Melbourne, but we’ve got to crack down on the hoon element and work better than what it is at the moment.

 

In addition to the new audio warning on e-scooters, other technologies were being developed including AI systems that prevent riders from “ending” a trip unless they provide a photograph of their e-scooter correctly parked.

Improved “dual band” GPS systems were also being developed, which the council has suggested could be looked upon favourably in future procurement processes.

Most providers currently use single frequency band technology to locate devices and create “no-riding” and “no-parking” zones.

And while this worked well in large locations such as Fitzroy Gardens or the Shrine of Remembrance, it is not accurate enough to prevent riding on a footpath while allowing riding on an adjacent street.

Operator Beam has said it would deploy 200 e-scooters in the City of Melton which can only travel at four km/h on footpaths, which would prove a significant deterrent.

A report from council officers suggested providers who could not deliver accurate geofencing technology in future would be left behind.

“In any future agreements with e-scooter operators, officers would include requirements to take advantage of up-to-date technology as part of the procurement process,” the report said.

“Management would also seek to ensure that agreements are flexible and able to incorporate new technology as it develops and to exclude operators which cannot deliver appropriate technologies.”

Dangerous scooter use on footpaths remained a key complaint among inner city residents, workers and visitors, however there was also concern about poor parking practices that obstructs access, particularly for elderly and disabled pedestrians.

A report from council management has advocated for expanded designated e-scooter parking areas, something it says is supported by Lime and Neuron.

This would include, in busy areas high scooter use, “readily identifiable” parking zones spaced approximately 150 metres apart and large enough for five or more scooters.

The zones would be located on both kerbside spaces and footpaths and riders would be directed to park by line marking and the app itself.

Council officers were currently identifying locations to trial the marked e-scooter parking zones.

“Many cities around the world are moving from free-floating e-scooter parking to designated parking, often clustered with other micro mobility vehicles (like) bicycles,” the report stated.

The Victorian Government’s shared e-scooter trial — which involves the municipalities of Melbourne, Yarra and Port Phillip — began in February 2022.

In March this year the trial was extended by six months and expanded it to include private e-scooters.

The latest City of Melbourne report said it “appears likely that e-scooters will be permanently legalised in early October 2023”.

According to the council, Melburnians “have embraced the e-scooter trial”, surpassing five million rides since February last year — almost 6,000 trips a day, one of the highest rates in the world.

Both Lime and Neuron have argued that Melbourne’s shared e-scooters currently has a “higher-than-optimal rate of use per day” and said the fleet should be expanded from the current 750 per operator. •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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