In the last ten years, almost $US200 billion has been invested globally in mobility technology to improve our ability to get around. It’s becoming increasingly common to see an e-scooter parked in the office or delivery people on e-bikes zooming around cities. Like any vehicle, there are an enormous number of different e-scooter brands that are available on the market and state governments are being encouraged to change existing electric bike and scooter laws.
E-scooters are great for “last-mile” transportation Photo by Raine Scooters
Why are e-scooters so popular?
– “Last-mile” solution
E-scooters have blown up in popularity but the main reason they’re particularly good for those living in urban areas is they solve “last-mile” transportation. These zippy scooters make it easy to get to and from public transport. Their speed and efficiency makes them perfect to commute to work once you’ve got off the train or tram. E-scooters, such as the Raine One, are easily foldable so they can be put away during the day while at work. Given Australia’s warm climate, it’s also a great vehicle for riding to meetings nearby without arriving feeling exhausted or covered in sweat.
– Easy to carry
The more innovative e-scooters are able to be folded up and carried. Their frames are lightweight making them easy to take on public transport or be put under a desk at work. These new e-scooter models have an advantage over e-bikes which are bulkier and take up more room.
E-scooter laws in Australia
State governments around the country are facing mounting pressure to change laws surrounding electric bikes and scooters as more people use them. The ACT Government until recently had restricted the use of e scooters, but as of December 20, e-mobility vehicles were permitted. Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety Shane Rattenbury said the new laws are a step towards the ACT’s renewable energy targets.
ACT residents are permitted to ride e-scooters at a maximum speed of 15 km/h on footpaths and up to 25 km/h in all other permitted locations. Users must wear a helmet, give way to pedestrians and slow down when going across a crossing.
Meanwhile in Victoria, RACV conducted a survey that found 80 per cent of people surveyed would consider using an e-scooter, and almost 60 per cent would use one instead of a car. Melbourne’s Moreland City Council has also urged the Victorian government to legalise e-scooters and has offered to host a trial for them.
E-scooter sharing schemes have been trialled in the United States and Europe to great success over the last few years. Californian start-up Lime was the first company to trial a scooter-sharing scheme in Australia that saw thousands of people scooting around on their bright green vehicles in Brisbane. During the first three months of the trial, more than 500,000 e-scooter trips were taken.
In June 2019, Brisbane City Council approved 250 e-scooters from Singapore company Neuron Mobility, whose scooters have “geo-fencing” technology. This prevents riders from scooting through prohibited and dangerous areas.
Australian e-scooter start-up
Melbourne-based start-up Raine, has caused quite a stir on the e-scooter scene. In 2019, the company ran the most successful Kickstarter campaign of any electric vehicle on the crowdfunding site, raising over $600,000 and smashing its initial target of $73,000 in just 43 minutes. They also received an additional $500,000 in seed funding from Blackbird Ventures to help bring their advanced electric scooters to market.
Dealing with road safety
Australian cities will have to come up with ways to deal with congestion on roads and footpaths as different types of vehicles appear. While scooter-sharing schemes are a good idea, the problem with dockless scooters is that riders can leave them on the street which causes congestion to pedestrians and other vehicles.
Collecting data on mobility technology and road safety will help local councils make decisions on how they can best overcome the challenges facing cities around Australia. Overseas, Seattle has become a leader in kerb management, using data to identify the six key functions of the kerb and how they can manage them. Tech companies in the US are also working with city planners to adapt infrastructure to accommodate e-scooters.
The future of the e-scooter market
The future is looking bright for e-scooters and businesses predict that scooter sharing will do to short distance travel what ride-sharing did to the taxi industry.
Australian policymakers need to adapt to new innovation in electric scooters and rethink regulations that surround the use of them. It’s also the responsibility of scooter companies to ensure their products are designed for rider safety and to keep the footpath a safe public space.
Ms Mannering says ensuring e-scooters have strong lights and better brakes would fix most of the issues people are having with e-scooters at the moment, which is why those features have been a major focus for Raine.
Our cities have the potential to see many different transport options available to reduce the amount of cars on the road, as long as businesses work together with policymakers to make this happen.