E-scooters open the way for concrete mixers?

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Unlike the legislatively reviled abandoned shopping trolleys, the urban “litter” of e-scooters on pathways, traffic islands, outside The Lodge, anywhere really, is just fine; likewise, the procession of injured people through the emergency departments of our hospitals. Will it end in tears, wonders columnist IAN MEIKLE

I’M quite taken by the idea of these electric scooters, though daunted to discover there are about 1500 of them littering, a la shopping trolleys, the inner north, south, centre, lake and Belconnen.

Ian Meikle.

And I’m startled by the news that since their September launch, more than 60 people have been injured by e-scooter incidents so seriously they needed to be treated at an emergency department.

It’s summer and the certain prospect is that, no matter the warnings, these numbers will increase. 

But back to the idea of e-scooters; no pollution, renewable energy, easy to use, fun to ride, highly accessible… I’m not sure it gets conceptually much better and one can see why our self-proclaimed “progressive” local government trills at the very mention of e-scooters. They are emblematic of our hip, little city. 

In fact the government was emboldened in early September by the convenient results of its own “YourSay” survey, affirming that 89 per cent of respondents supported the use of e-scooters on Canberra bicycle lanes and 75 per cent said they supported them on footpaths.

These are remarkable figures of support given most of us had probably never seen an e-scooter. But they were slightly cooked with the Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury saying that about 670 people contributed to the community survey and they included parents, public-transport users, pedestrians, cyclists and people who have used these devices in other jurisdictions.

I might have been suckered into supporting the concept, though I’m not sure I’d have been among the 47 per cent of respondents who thought it would be okay for people under 16 to be riding them. 

Despite only 36 per cent of respondents supporting a maximum speed of 25km/h, that’s what we got for riding an e-scooter on a shared path or bike path, but reduced to 15km/h for footpaths and down to 10km/h when using a crossing.

So it’s September and we’re good to go, the scooters arrive, but it took only until October for Canberra’s top road-safety cop Marcus Boorman to start warning that “idiots on e-scooters” would be fined. 

He firmly reminded us that e-scooters had a maximum speed of 15km/h on a footpath, and people weren’t allowed to use them under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“If anyone thinks they can get on these things and undertake risky behaviour and be an idiot, there will be consequences,” he said.

Clearly, no-one was listening to the inspector because by December citynews.com.au is reporting that there’s one e-scooter incident every two days that sends someone to hospital.

My colleague Andrew Mathieson reported that since the September launch, more than 60 people have been so seriously injured by e-scooter incidents they needed to be treated at an emergency department.

While data from Canberra Health Services highlighted the dangers of e-scooters, anecdotal evidence suggests that some of the incidents involved alcohol. No surprises then to discover police having to waste valuable time breathalysing some of the people admitted to the emergency departments of Canberra’s two hospitals.

By December, the redoubtable Insp Boorman was again rattling the enforcement sabre: “If we see you doing the wrong thing, you can be fined, and the fine is $153 for each offence.

“Riders must wear a helmet when using the scooters; we are seeing too many persons being admitted to hospital with injuries from crashing the e-scooters.”

Never mind the human carnage, the political benevolence towards how e-scooters are allowed to be left pretty well anywhere – upright, flat on the ground, in grass on footpaths, wherever they like really – is striking. Compare that to the punitive outrage launched against discarded shopping trolleys.

I’m surprised the police lost-and-found storeroom isn’t full of them from being handed in by conscientious members of the community. Who knew their owners were at liberty to just leave them lying around the streets?

I wonder where the inevitable writ will land – the ACT government or the scooter hirer – when someone trips over one in the dark on a suburban footpath. 

Though just maybe the ACT government is on to something truly innovative here: the idea of allowing hiring companies the convenience of leaving their machinery wherever they like. 

Concrete mixers on every street corner, I say!

PS: If you’d wondered, e-scooters are $1 to unlock and cost 38 cents a minute to ride. 

Ian Meikle is the editor of “CityNews” and can be heard weekly on 2CC’s “CityNews Sunday Roast”, 9am-noon. 


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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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