The rise of electric transportation and how it affects you
29 July 2019
Our approach to transport is shifting. More and more people use ride-sharing and short-term car rental services, and electric vehicles are an increasingly hot topic in Australia. E-transportation options, such as e-scooters and e-bikes, are also changing the way we view travel.
E-products are particularly popular as an option for the ‘last mile’ in transport, such as quick trips to the train station or for inner city folk with short commutes to work. Some companies offer them as part of sharing services, meaning people can book them by the hour and enjoy even more freedom.
Californian-based company Lime is a great example of this. Currently operating in Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide, they rent out e-scooters from as little as $1 to unlock the vehicle, and 30c per minute to ride (prices fluctuate depending on location, time and demand). The scooters are collected each night and recharged either by the company itself, or by members of the public known as ‘juicers’, who are paid by Lime to charge the scooters from their homes.
It all sounds logical enough in theory, but there seems to be a lot of confusion around e-transportation in these early adoption days. Here’s everything you need to know.
What are the benefits of e-transportation?
One of the most commonly cited benefits of e-transportation is its potential to lessen our carbon footprint. E-products allow users to get from A to B with far less of the harmful effects traditional road transport has on the environment.
Our population is growing faster than our infrastructure can keep up with. Australia’s total population is expected to reach 42.5 million by 2056, pushing cities like Melbourne out to the same size that London is now. Commuters already face heavy traffic and packed public transport in many areas. E-scooters and e-bikes provide alternatives that don’t congest our roads as much, and can alleviate some of the pressure on our public transport.
Companies like Lime have hundreds of e-scooters in their fleet, meaning there are usually plenty available when users need one. With no need to spend additional money on fuel, storage or vehicle registration, this can be a highly accessible and affordable transport option.
The challenges of e-transportation
The safety concerns raised by e-scooters can’t be ignored. In Brisbane, where Lime first launched its fleet, there were 60 scooter-related injuries reported over a three month period. There has even been one reported death related to scooter use in Brisbane.
While Lime publishes information on how to use its products safely, and specifies that riders must wear helmets when riding, safety for both riders and pedestrians is still a concern.
Rules and laws
The introduction of electric-powered scooters and bikes has seen many new laws come into place. For e-scooters, many rules and regulations differ from state to state, making it more difficult for Australians adopting this new technology.
- Queensland: e-scooters can travel up to 25km/h, and can only be used on footpaths.
- NSW: currently, e-scooters are only allowed to be used on private property, although Lime continues to have trials in Sydney which may see the laws eventually changed.
- South Australia: similar to NSW, South Australia has strict rules stating that e-scooters can only be ridden on private property. However, those rules are currently on hold within a set area of Adelaide where Lime is trialling their e-scooters.
- Victoria & Tasmania: in both states, e-scooters can travel up to 10km/h. If they go faster than that, they’re classified as a motor vehicle, so the rider needs to register the e-scooter and have a valid motorcycle license.
- Western Australia: e-scooters are also limited to up to 10km/h in WA, plus they can’t be used on footpaths and paths designed for shared use with pedestrians and bikes.
- Northern Territory: all e-scooters in the NT are considered motor vehicles, so need to be registered to be used on roads and in other public places.
- ACT: e-scooters are currently not allowed to be registered or used in any public place in the ACT.
One of the biggest challenges facing e-transportation is the question of who’s at fault in the case of an accident. If a pedestrian is injured, should compensation be sought from the e-product company itself, or the rider?
These questions still have people scratching their heads. One Sunshine Coast lawyer has called for Lime to add public liability insurance to its offering, to protect riders and pedestrians from injuries caused by the scooters. However, this would potentially only cover accidents that result from a product malfunction or defect. In the case of irresponsible riding, or operating whilst on a mobile phone or under the influence of alcohol, the insurance situation gets more complicated.
The future of e-transportation in Australia
In the US, e-scooters have been adopted way more quickly than ride-sharing, car-sharing, or even bike-sharing. If we see a similar trend in Australia, e-transportation could soon take off here. However, if that’s going to happen, state governments will need to loosen regulations and allow companies such as Lime to release their products.
E-transportation providers need to consider safety at every point in the customer experience, but users also have a big part to play. Before jumping on an e-scooter or bike, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully and ensure you’re following all local laws and safety practices.
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