The popularity of e-scooters is on the rise in Australia, but there's a bit of a problem. The laws differ from state to state, and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion around how and where they can be legally ridden.
Electric scooters are dangerous. It seems like you can’t go a day without seeing a scary story in the news reminding the world of this fact. People die riding these things. So it wasn’t surprising when Boosted emphasised safety in announcing it’s new e-scooter. The $2499.95 Boosted Rev has three brakes, wide handlebars, fat tires, and a bombproof frame. It also has a top speed of 39km per hour, which as I learned after two weeks riding the Rev, is as thrilling as it is terrifying.
While private ownership of e-scooters is said to have risen by over 50 per cent since they were first introduced to the Australian market, commercial adoption and legislation has been slow in every state bar Queensland.
In addition to running trials in select areas (which Adelaide is also doing), it has the most comprehensive laws currently in place.
As you'll see below, the use of e-scooters is relatively restricted in every other state and territory.
- New South Wales: private property only.
- South Australia: private property only.
- Western Australia: private property only.
- Victoria: e-scooters below 200-watts can be ridden in some public spaces up to 10km/h.
- Tasmania: e-scooters below 200-watts can be ridden in some public spaces up to 10km/h.
- Australian Capital Territory: e-scooters below 200-watts can be ridden in some public spaces up to 10km/h.
- Northern Territory: e-scooters below 200-watts can be ridden in some public spaces up to 10km/h.
- Queensland: e-scooters above 200 watts can be ridden publicly on the street, on footpaths and in bike lanes at over 10km/h.
There is quite a bir of variation between each state, with some restricting e-scooters to private property.
While being aware of what the state laws are is tricky enough, it becomes even more complicated when country-wide retailers are taken into consideration.
As The Guardian points out, while there is no law against selling e-scooters anywhere in Australia, misinformation is unfortunately being supplied to customers by some retail representatives.
Some said that the vehicles were legal everywhere so long as you wore a helmet, with others stating they can go up to 30km/h on a footpath.
Misleading information such as this doesn't sound like it has been on purpose. Rather, it's an outcome of the lack of transparent and uniform legislation, as well as education around e-scooters.
Not only does this add to the confusion around the legality of the vehicles and put customers in the position of inadvertently breaking the law, it can also land retailers in hot water.
As we have seen many times over the last few years with various telcos - companies can't provide "false or misleading" information regarding the products its selling. Doing so can land them with a huge fine, regardless of whether it was an accident.
Retailers who don't ensure that their staff are aware of the laws in their state run the risk of being taken to task by the ACCC.
E-scooters are a blast - they became my favourite way of quickly and conveniently seeing European cities such as Berlin. But the laws were clear. Stay off the footpath and wear a helmet.
If you're not careful they absolutely can be a hazard.
While e-scooters have only been on sale in Australia for over a year, their increasingly popularity necessitates an urgent review of the current laws.
When there is so much confusion around where people can ride, it's only a matter of time before some serious injuries occur.
As highlighted by The Guardian, the ACT has the right idea. The territory plans to further legalise the vehicles as well as run educational programs around them.
These steps will not only help to protect customers and retailers from accidentally breaking the law - but to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Let's hope all of the states are more aligned in the neat future.