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Op-ed: Scooters' future in Tasmania is riding on behaviour of users

Thursday 17 March 2022, The Examiner

Pictured with Deputy Mayor Danny Gibson and Inspector Nathan Johnston

To the vexed topic of e-scooters. Some people love them, some people hate them and most fall somewhere in between. As to usage cost, it is $1.00 to unlock and 45 cents per minute.

For context, in Tasmania many people had purchased e-scooters but the Traffic Act 1925 categorized motorized scooters with a power output of more than 200 watts as unregistered motor vehicles and they were not permitted on public roads. In late 2021, Parliament passed an amendment to the Traffic Act to allow e-scooters, e-skateboards and self-balancing hoverboards with an output of more than 200 watts to be used on footpaths, shared paths, bicycle paths and some roads with a speed limit of 50 kph or less, however it is up to local councils to determine where Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) can be used in their municipalities.

This includes which areas are “geofenced” (where the device won’t operate –such as malls, parks and some streets) and speed limits etc. The councils pass this information to the e-scooter companies to load into the scooter apps. As this is an ongoing process, anyone who has feedback about misuse of PMDs should get in touch with the council. Launceston Council meets weekly with operators Beam and Neuron, and Hobart Council, and fortnightly with Tasmania Police.

In the first month of trial, there were more than 60,000 e-scooter trips in Launceston with riders travelling more than 100,000 km. Council advised 40 jobs have been created through the companies involved in the trial.

As there is currently no by-law or road rule prohibiting the use of PMDs in City Park, both operators have been requested to prevent their e-scooters from being ridden under power in City Park, Riverbend Park and Prince’s Square which raises the question whether the Seaport pedestrian bridge should also be geofenced given the damage to the recycled plastic decking by apparent burnouts.

Our Traffic Act conditions are fairly strict such as the rider needing to be over sixteen years old, must wear a helmet, unless exempt, must not travel past a sign prohibiting PMDs, must not carry another person or animal, must not ride without due care and attention or reasonable consideration of others, must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or use mobile phones while on the scooter.

People should read the terms and conditions of hire as interestingly the purple Beam scooters state under 16 year olds can ride with the consent of parents/guardians, however this is an offence under our Traffic Act as the scooters have an output of more than 200 watts. The orange Neuron scooters state riders must be 18 years or more.

It is important that members of the public are well-informed about the laws and offences which surround the use of PMDs – and the penalties for their unlawful use. Most penalties are $129.75 with the exception being for anyone riding under the influence of alcohol/drugs, where the penalty is a matter for the Court to decide. These rules apply whether the device is being used on the road, footpath, mall, park or other public place, with the speed limit on footpaths 15 km/h.

I am sure readers are now recalling many instances of misuse they have seen, and it is essential for PMD users to be aware what they can and can’t do as Police can penalize those not adhering to the rules.

For an up to date list of Tasmanian Road Rules relating to scooters, put “transport Tasmania e-scooters” into the computer search engine, and what you can and can’t do will come up.

While the majority of riders follow the rules, plenty of anecdotal evidence and personal accounts indicate that a number engage in unsafe, unlawful or anti-social behaviour.

Although some streets are wide, many are narrow and it can cause particular grief when stationary PMDs block footpaths. It is law that riders must give way to pedestrians on footpaths and shared paths, they must travel a sufficient distance from pedestrians in order to stop safely to avoid a collision, and keep to the left unless overtaking or impracticable to do so.

It is vital that vulnerable people, those in wheelchairs, with prams, pets and pedestrians have adequate access to footpaths and are not put at risk by e-scooters or other PMDs. A review will be completed twelve months after the trial period to determine whether not or not to allow PMDs to become permanent fixtures in our cities and towns. The outcome is dependent on riders.

Rosemary Armitage MLC


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