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Traffic Amendment (Personal Mobility Devices) Bill 2021 (No. 57)

Thursday 18 November 2021, Second Reading Speech

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, that we are seeing new and more novel modes of transport is undeniable. This bill is one way that we can ensure that their introduction to Tasmanian streets is done safely, with the users, pedestrians and drivers in mind.

From time to time I see people on e-scooters around Launceston. It is a really interesting mix of people. Not just young children, but men and women of all ages who seem to be seeing their utility. It will be interesting to see in the years ahead how these types of transport might have a positive influence on the traffic congestion woes we see in places like Launceston and Hobart.

If it is to be, however, we need to make sure that the legislation and surrounding policy framework are based on sound evidence-based principles. This bill, as I understand it, has been informed by a policy framework which is largely based on amendments to the model Australian Road Rules agreed to by Infrastructure and Transport Ministers in May 2021, with minor tweaks to ensure the framework is fit for purpose in Tasmania.

Currently chairing the inquiry into Road Safety in Tasmania, there is a lot of evidence, and submissions and hearings about a multitude of factors that influence road safety. These range from things such as headlights to road quality, vehicle standards, driver experience and training, teaching, and a plethora of other factors that people are raising as issues that feed into road safety.

Therefore, I am inclined to think about how e-scooters and other personal mobility devices will factor into road safety in the years to come. The introduction of motorised scooters with a power output of more than 200 watts are categorised as unregistered vehicles and are currently not permitted on public roads. This bill will permit people who are at least 16 years old to require them to comply with all applicable road rules, to ride with due care and attention. They will also be required to wear a helmet. It is a shame we cannot make them do them up but at least they are required to wear a helmet. They must not travel past a sign prohibiting PMDs, must not use a mobile phone while in or on the device, must not exceed specified speed limits, must not carry another person or animal - I note the comment by the member for Murchison with regard to little dogs and people's animals - and must not ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

We must expect that some of these rules will be tested or broken. What will be interesting to see, therefore, will be what happens when the use of PMDs results in injury or damage. How will our insurers handle associated costs? How will the Motor Accident Insurance Board incorporate the use of PMDs into the allocation of funding for accident recovery given that PMDs are unregistered motor vehicles? What if pedestrians are harmed? These are also issues that I am sure will become relevant at some point in the future. I would like to understand more about what plans are in place to address them.

I am aware that the Government has committed to review the regulatory framework in 12 months to identify any emerging safety implications. I am sure that many we have not been able to think of will emerge. It would be appreciated if the Leader could indicate what safety implications are being considered and addressed now.

What I hope to see from the introduction of these PMDs to Tasmanians streets is an amelioration of traffic issues and a fun, novel mode of transport for Tasmanians, especially around our cities. Not everyone has the money, time or inclination to cycle. If we can broaden options for people to move around, then that must be a good thing.

We are hearing support for the introduction of PMDs from our communities. I believe they have the support of our local councils which will have a large degree of responsibility over them. I hope to see similar experiences with e-scooters and PMDs as have occurred in places such as the United States and the United Kingdom where they seem to work reasonably well and seem to have retained public support after their introduction.

Leader, I will ask the questions on the Floor so I can have the answers we had in briefings recorded on the record with regard to my local council of Launceston.

Do councils have to do an audit of every road in the municipality to determine if scooters can travel on them before they can start a trial? My understanding is PMDs will be allowed to travel on footpaths. This section will only apply where it is not suitable to use the footpath and they will be required to use the road. It will only be a handful of roads that are impacted but there is nothing in the bill to suggest this.

So, my question is with regard to 41CA(2), where it says:

The road authority for a speed-limited road may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare that road to be a road on which a PMD user may travel, subject to such terms and conditions as are specified in the notice.

When the bill states 'roads', does it mean the entire road including the footpath or just the road? Will the council be required to declare a road on which a PMD may travel for all roads or just roads where they are not permitted to use the footpath?

It was very interesting to hear in the Hobart City Council briefing about the regulations and requirements for the hire scooters used in the 12-month micromobility operational trial. They will be geofenced. They will identify areas where they are allowed to be and how fast they can go. The safety features for the hire scooters are impressive. We were told they can fine and ban customers from the platform if customers are found to be driving unsafely or doings things that they should not. Obviously, all scooters have helmets.

The scooters can recognise something in front of them, whether it be large or small. They have pedestrian detection centres. They have low speed beginner mode. They have dangerous rider behaviour detection. They have an automatic triple 0 emergency. Users will be forced to park in a designated safe parking area. When I was in Darwin earlier this year there were scooters left everywhere. If you were not watching where you were going you could easily trip over one that was left on the footpath. People finish with them, drop them and walk off.

It is interesting that end-of-ride parking will be enforced. We were also told that there will be parked vehicle recovery. I think it was 30 people that they will be employing around the area. They will not be all on at the same time but they will be taking the scooters back and picking them up. I think it is in New Zealand where a vehicle goes around picking up scooters and taking them back to their charging stations. They need to be charged, their batteries do not last indefinitely.

Scooters, as we have heard, are already on the roads as people can buy them. We need to make sure they are safe, particularly for pedestrians. My neighbour had an accident with a skateboarder in our local mall and has had ongoing problems for a long time. Young children can be walking with you and then veer off and run ahead. We need to be sure they are as safe as they can be.

The other question I asked earlier is in regard to the liability. We were told it is the credit cards. If it is a younger person riding an e-scooter, 14 or 15 years old - I know there's an age of 16, but I'm quite sure that younger people will ride them at times. Their parents have a credit card and you put it on the application.

If they are from interstate or overseas, obviously we will be having overseas visitors again as of 15 December, I would like some clarification regarding compensation for an accident. Not so much for the person on the scooter, because I appreciate there are a large number of the accidents that happen, but someone who may be crashed into and have a serious injury, and it goes back to the credit card. I appreciate all the details for the hire scooters are on there. We can probably only really talk about the hire scooters for people coming.

If there is a considerable fine of $20 million liability cover for hire scooters, how would that be recovered, particularly if it was someone younger? With Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service, we know there are a lot of unrecoverable fines we cannot get because we do not have that reciprocal coverage. As has been mentioned, scooters are already on the road and we need them to operate safely.

A set of model road rules were developed, signed off in May. I also noticed from the Government briefing police will be able to confiscate them. In an enforcement sense, they will need to be ridden with due care and attention. My understanding is they are looking at the rule rather than speed limits, which is a bit harder. Not every police officer walks around with a speed gun, but they will be able to make a charge of riding without due care and attention.

Having said all that - and the Government will be holding an education campaign shortly called Ride with Respect, with some more comprehensive advice on how the safety implications of personal mobility devices will be managed - I support the bill.


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