How are E-scooter Trials Travelling?
E-scooter trials began in February 2022, facilitated by a partnership between the local governments and mobility companies, Lime and Neuron Mobility, in three municipalities – City of Melbourne, City of Yarra and City of Port Phillip.
The trials are fundamental to creating a framework for the expansion of hireable e-scooters and legalisation of the privately owned scooters. This framework will provide the understanding and data necessary to put restrictions in place for private e-scooters, such as speed caps.
Since the beginning of the trial “more than 60,000 e-scooter trips were already made by 10 February,” (C. Waters, The Age 10/02/22). We also know that there are a significant amount of private e-scooter trips occur which are not captured in this data.
Challenges and Opportunities of the E-scooter
In Queensland, where electric scooters trials were first introduced in 2018, research found that conflicts between pedestrians and e-scooters were relatively rare, involving only 0.6 per cent of shared e-scooters (CARRS-Q, 2020).
New e-scooter users have a significantly increased risk of accidents compared to more experienced users. These higher associated risks can be attributed to the novelty of an e-scooter as a form of transport and lack of education on how to use the vehicles.
“We know from the studies that’ve been done in hospitals that most of the injuries to scooter riders are from them falling off,” Professor Narelle Haworth (The Age, 10/02/2022), as opposed to incidents with cars or pedestrians. This highlights the importance of e-scooter education and training for new users. However, it’s also important to note personal safety can be influenced by perception and e-scooters can impact pedestrians’ feelings of safety when sharing footpaths.
Effective spatial distribution will also need to be addressed. E-scooter clumping in key destinations is an issue that has faced dockless micromobility transport modes in several cities, particularly when operations are hands-off (self-regulating). Hot spots or clumping locations often occur at key destinations.
Finally, a significant hurdle facing e-scooter take-up is that private e-scooters are illegal in the vast majority of LGA’s in Victoria and, therefore, are unable to be regulated effectively. It is hoped that when a viable framework for e-scooters is adopted, private e-scooters will be legalised and subject to the same restrictions, such as speed limits, similar to the way e-bikes have been regulated. For example, if an e-bike has a higher power than 250W, it is then classified as a motorcycle and motorcycle restrictions and road rules apply.
In the meantime, private e-scooters are unrestricted and can travel at excessive speeds, which can provide unsafe conditions for all road users, most notably the e-scooter users.
New Zealand has been trialling e-scooters since 2018 and provides a valuable case study on the potential future trends involving e-scooter safety. The website below links to a diagram showing the substantial decline in accident claims from e-scooters made in New Zealand between 2018 and 2021.
ACC Newsroom, 8 June 2021 – https://www.acc.co.nz/newsroom/stories/three-years-of-e-scooters-the-true-cost-of-convenience/
The significant decline in e-scooter injury claims indicates that as people become familiar with e-scooters as an integral component of the transport network, associated accidents and injuries decrease. Ideally, the Victorian trails will provide information key to creating a framework for e-scooters tailored to user trends and urban environment safety concerns for local users.
It seems likely that with the increase of private e-scooter ownership since the start of the pandemic and trials in three Melbourne municipalities, private e-scooters will be legalised with some formal regulations as early as midway through 2022.
It’s an exciting time to see the introduction of efficient and sustainable micromobility options forming part of our transport network. E-scooters are an attractive and fun means of transport. They create an ‘experience’, rather than merely transporting users from point A to point B.
Furthermore, e-scooters enhance the level of permeability on urban streets and helps reduce peak traffic congestion occurring on our inner urban roads and public transport network.
However, an elephant in the room remains with the discrepancies between different states on rules and regulations governing e-scooter usage. The confusing issue of private e-scooters being illegal while hire-out e-scooters are legal also remains. Legislation must catch up to technology.
As transport engineers and planners, we need to think about ways we can incorporate e-scooters into our road design to ensure that safety measures are incorporated to protect our vulnerable road users.
In on-road situations, e-scooters are a new vulnerable road user who need to be protected in a similar manner to cyclists, whereas on shared paths there is an increased chance of conflicts with pedestrians. Both scenarios require adequate attention to ensure that all users have a high level of safety and accessibility.
It’s an interesting challenge that we look forward to incorporating into our transport assessments and future transport designs.
Three years of e-scooters: the true cost of convenience. (2021, June 8). ACC Newsroom. https://www.acc.co.nz/newsroom/stories/three-years-of-e-scooters-the-true-cost-of-convenience/
Editorial. (2022, February 10). Scooter safety calls for balanced measures. The Age. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/scooter-safety-calls-for-balanced-measures-20220210-p59va4.html
Waters, C. (2022, February 10). Battle for footpaths drives increase in injuries linked to e-scooters. The Age. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/battle-for-footpaths-drives-increase-in-injuries-linked-to-e-scooters-20220210-p59vbx.html
Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q). (2020). e-Scooter Safety. https://research.qut.edu.au/carrsq/wp-content/uploads/sites/296/2020/12/e-Scooter-Safety-1.pdf