Riding an e-scooter? You could be breaking the law

Moving Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 03 October 2019

It might be legal to buy an electric scooter in Australia, but is it legal to ride one? 

Electric scooters may be the next big thing to hit Melbourne’s streets, but using one could cost you a $826 fine. 

The e-scooters, which can be bought from department stores, specialty shops and online retailers for as little as a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, are high on many Christmas wishlists this year. But while it is legal to sell eScooters in Victoria, in most instances it is illegal to ride them here.

The popularity of e-scooters for short commutes has sky-rocketed in countries such as Germany, which legalised them in June. Even Mercedes Benz has jumped on the bandwagon and is due to release its own version early next year. 

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Woman wearing helmet riding eScooter on footpath past city building.

Lime e-scooter sharing scheme is negotiating with Australian states and territories to change e-scooter regulations.


But Australian authorities have been caught out by imported e-scooters being sold here, despite a lack of uniform laws between states and territories.  

The National Transport Commission is calling for public submissions on the issue in mid-October but, for now, it is illegal to ride the most commonly available e-scooters on Victoria’s roads or footpaths.

E-scooters may be ridden on footpaths and shared paths only if they have a top speed of 10kmh, about double the speed of a brisk walking pace, and have a power output of 200 watts. 

No e-scooters may be ridden on roads, regardless of their power output. Riding a non-compliant scooter anywhere other than on private property can incur a fine.    

RACV’s senior manager transport, planning and infrastructure Peter Kartsidimas says e-scooters have the potential to become a useful part of the transport network, for example getting commuters to public transport or travelling short distances across cities. 

Melbourne is an ideal city for micromobility with an even topography, a network of low-speed roads and good cycling infrastructure.


But he warns that many people are buying e-scooters that do not meet the current legal requirements.  “There are concerns about safety and we need appropriate laws and infrastructure for e-scooters, but this is an opportunity we should cautiously explore,” he says. 

“RACV hasn’t got a predetermined position on e-scooters so we are asking the Victorian public to express their opinion on the opportunities and potential risk they pose, through an online survey.”  

One of the world’s leading e-scooter sharing schemes, Lime, has been trialling the scheme – which is similar to bike sharing – in Brisbane, and is eyeing markets in Melbourne and Sydney. 

“Melbourne is an ideal city for micromobility with an even topography, a network of low-speed roads and good cycling infrastructure,” says Lime’s director of government affairs, Mitchell Price.

He says the company is negotiating with all Australian states and territories to change regulations to allow for widespread e-scooter use.

Close up of Mercedes eScooter in front of car

Mercedes Benz is set to launch its eSctooer next year.


Two people wearing helmets riding eScooters through a green park

A learing global eScooter sharing scheme, Lime, has been trialling the scheme in Brisbane .


“The questions for the Victorian government is do they want to work with Lime as the global leader in micromobility safety, sustainability, innovation and a trusted partner for government, or continue to ignore the global shifting paradigm in urban transport?” he says.

Monash University trialled Lime’s e-scooter sharing scheme at its Clayton campus late last year and found they were popular with students. But many riders refused to wear safety helmets provided. 

A Monash report says a few riders fell off the scooters or had near misses with pedestrians, but no serious injuries were reported.

It found that because the e-scooters were silent, pedestrians could not hear them coming. 

Over a month from 7 November 2018 there were 9761 individual rides covering a distance of 7026 kilometres.

A Victorian Department of Transport spokesman says there are “strong policies” for the safe use of e-scooters. The rules are published its rules on its website

 

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