Scooter helter-skelter

Scooter helter-skelter
Simon Harvey

One of my regular walks is along the Moonee Ponds Creek section of the Capital City Trail.

Although early week-day mornings are not a good time to walk the trail, being peak hour for cyclists, there I was anyway, walking north so I could keep an eye on the city-bound commuters coming towards me.

About 50 metres ahead of me I noticed a very fast-moving cyclist easily overtaking all others in its path. Before it passed me, I barely had time to recognise that it was instead an e-scooter … whoosh! My first thought was “wow - that’s dangerous”, but to be honest, I was also thinking “what fun that would be!” Remembering it now, I can’t be sure that I didn’t see a Superman cloak flying along behind!

The following Monday we had the monthly Kensington Association meeting during which we had a Police Community Consultative Committee (PCCC) report which focused on the complexity of policing issues associated with Melbourne’s e-scooter trial. During 2022 some parts of Melbourne – Cities of Melbourne, Yarra and Port Phillip, plus the regional city of Ballarat, are participating in a year-long e-scooter trial with commercial operators Lime and Neuron Mobility. After the association meeting I resolved to give the scooters a try myself.

During the following week I hatched a plan to find a Lime scooter, scoot south to the city along the creek, find a Neuron scooter, park the Lime and scoot home on the Neuron. Simple, I thought. I assure readers I didn’t have any Superman illusions; I had done my homework and knew the scooters were limited to a sedate 20 kph.

I downloaded the Lime and Neuron apps, and located the closest Lime – perhaps a five-minute walk. I turned into the street and sure enough, there it was in all its lime-green glory. However, pulling out my phone, which had located the scooter for me at home, I found the app couldn’t connect to the internet from that location, and I couldn’t hire the scooter without connection! To cut a long story short (lots of fiddling and farting around trying to connect), I located another Lime closer to home. The only problem was, the helmet was missing on this one, but I managed to connect and hire it. I guiltily (helmetless) managed to navigate along back streets to my home to get my own helmet and proceeded on my mission to the city! It was a nice day, it was fun, I didn’t feel like Superman, and to be honest – not being used to electric propulsion – I felt a bit of a cheat effortlessly zooming along while most of my fellow travellers were sweating it out with their pedals – LOL!

On the outskirts of the city, I noticed a Neuron scooter leaning on a tree. I parked my Lime nearby and logged-on to finish my hire, only to be asked to replace my helmet in order to complete my hire. It began to feel like a saga, even more so when I logged onto the Neuron and was told it was parked “out of area” and, therefore, not available. In short, my adventure concluded with a long walk home, with tail between my legs, no cloak billowing behind me, hoping I had successfully ended my 45-cent per minute hire with Lime!

Although my experience was rather unsatisfactory and unsatisfying, nevertheless I know others who have had more luck, and are enjoying their scooter experience. There is some progressive thinking behind the e-scooter trial; we are moving towards different transport alternatives in search of a less polluted environment. Few would take issue with the need for this transition, but there will always be those who question how it is done. True to form, the Twitter-sphere has begun to cover the whole gamut of praise and condemnation for the trial. Putting one’s “responsible” hat on, few would dispute that the introduction of new technology like this into the public realm requires careful regulation and a trial. As the VicRoads website explains – “We’re undertaking controlled trials of e-scooters 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.” In addition, since Melbourne is not the only city undertaking e-scooter trials, there will no doubt be pooling of ideas from around Australia and overseas in order to devise the best implementation model.

It seems to me that the issue of policing privately owned e-scooters is a critical issue. At present, during the trial, all privately owned scooters on public roads and paths are illegal, only the Lime and Neuron scooters are legal in public spaces! During my brief e-scooter adventure I think I saw only one other Lime or Neuron scooter rider and at least half-a-dozen private e-scooters. Clearly there is a safety issue in relation to privately owned more powerful e-scooters, and it seems that it is difficult to police them. Arguably there is also an inconsistency between the regulation of e-scooters and e-bikes. I’m wondering how police are actually going to catch the private e-scooter speedsters. Perhaps they will need a new posse of police riding V8 equivalent scooters!

In my future-dreaming mode I wonder about other airborne PMV’s (personal mobility vehicles), and the possibility of congested skies. Now they would need to undergo a very thorough trial! •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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