Will Lane Cove Conduct an E-Scooter Trial?

Recently the City of Sydney and the Inner West Council rejected a state government proposed trial for e-scooters.

The Inner West Council had concerns about pedestrian safety issues on their narrow, very busy footpaths.

What is Lane Cove Council’s Stand on E-Scooters?

At the March 2020 Lane Cove Council Meeting, Lane Cove Council passed a notice of motion asking the Lane Cove Council to write to the Minister for Transport and ask him to approve an E- Scooter trial.

The background information to the notice of motion stated:

“There are many reasons why e-scooters could be a good transport option in Lane Cove.  Proposed trials in a number of Sydney LGAs were abandoned last week by the Minister for Transport.  It is recommended that Council write to the Minister requesting he reconsider his decision.

“The NSW government has abandoned plans for an electric scooter trial in Sydney despite a national push to legalise the mobility devices.

Electric scooters are illegal on roads and footpaths in NSW, but sales continue to grow.

The then Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he was “not in the mood” to have e-scooters on Sydney streets, even though his department ran a lengthy process recommending strict conditions for holding a trial in Sydney:  electric scooters would be restricted to riders aged over 18 who hold a driver’s license and could only be ridden during the day and be allowed on footpaths capped at 10km/h and on bicycle paths and residential streets up to 25km/h.

ITC contacted Lane Cove Council and queried if they were still keen to go ahead with an E- Scooter trial.  A spokesperson for Lane Cove Council advised ITC:

“Council attended a briefing in May 2022, about an e-scooter trial that is to be facilitated by TfNSW.

The trial is to provide transport connections for End to End Journeys, First and Last Mile Journeys or Recreational Journey options.

TfNSW asked if any councils were interested. Council responded with an interest to participate in the trial.

At the last briefing TfNSW have asked Council to nominate a preferred e-scooter provider and provide a detailed submission by 30/9/22. We are currently working through options to consider our participation in the trial.

Please note: TfNSW will not be providing any funding for the trial. They are developing the regulatory framework for the trial. It is up to Council to fund and manage the trial.

We will know more in the coming months.”

Background on E-Scooters

The National Transport Commission, the statutory body for developing road regulations, spent 18 months considering the barriers to the safe use of personal mobility devices, given state legislation has failed to keep up with advances in technology.

Share schemes by Lime, Beam and Neuron operate in Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra where users pay by the minute, while e-scooters are popular in dozens of cities worldwide.

Despite only being legal to use on private property in NSW, e-scooters are prevalent around Sydney and sold at national retailers including Myer and JB Hi-Fi as well as boutique scooter shops.

All modes of transport carry some degree of accident risk.  Overseas accident data is not comparable given helmets are often not required.

Mr Constance claims e-scooters would be left up trees and littering parks and footpaths.  This did occur with initial trials of bike sharing but these bikes were heavy and, with no gears, difficult to ride up hills.

However, electric bikes have been better received and electric scooters should be the same.

Amenity and Sustainability
E-scooters free up space by taking commuters off roads and public transport.  They are obviously less polluting than cars and are more convenient for that “last mile” of commuter travel.

Scooters are more convenient than bikes for people living in apartments.  Older apartment blocks usually have no existing bike storage so bikes are often stored on the balcony, which is not ideal in terms of space and weather.  A scooter takes up far less room in an apartment.

They are also a more convenient form of transport than a bike in terms of what clothes the rider can wear.

Use of e-scooters in place of cars would help Lane Cove meet its emission reduction targets”

Are E-Scooters a Good Thing in Lane Cove?

ITC regularly receives complaints by locals about people riding bikes and skateboards in the Lane Cove Village Plaza.  Residents complain that rangers don’t enforce the no bike riding rule which puts pedestrians at risk.

On 24 July 2022 a man was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries after he fell off his e-scooter in Melbourne. Read more here.

The Guardian published an article about the E-Scooter scheme in Brisbane.  The article pointed out that the scheme was not supported by all residents:

“Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.”

The ABC reported that in Darwin “People are regularly turning up to Darwin’s emergency department with serious injuries sustained in e-scooter accidents, according to a medical group concerned the injury rate is not being properly recorded.”

A study published in the New Zealand Journal of Medicine compared data about e-scooter and bicycle injuries treated by Auckland City Hospital over a year and found the hospitalisation rate for e-scooter riders was about four times higher than for cyclists.

The Queensland Centre for Accident Recent & Road Safety has published a list of further research topics for E-Scooters:

“Future research may focus on:

  • The public health implications and extent of changes from cycling and walking to using e-scooters.
  • The safety and amenity of e-scooters on shared paths and in bicycle lanes. Will bike paths or shared paths need to be widened to improve safety and reduce congestion?
  • Will private use of e-scooters overtake shared use? Will currently observed differences in user behaviours between shared and private e-scooters continue?
  • The skills needed for safe e-scootering and how they can best be trained.”

Are Scooters an Environmentally Friendly Option?

A 2019 study from North Carolina State University found that shared e-scooters may be more environmentally friendly than most cars.  However, they may be less green than bikes, walking, and certain types of public transportation. E-scooters are electric and therefore carbon-free. Their green credibility comes into question with the emissions generated by the manufacturing, transportation, maintenance, and upkeep of dockless scooters.

Other commentators argue that an increased uplift in E-scooters (where they directly replace car usage) will have a positive impact on the environment.  For example Jeremiah Johnson, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University published an article in the Conversation:

“Our research highlights several ways to make these scooters more sustainable. Using e-scooters that are designed to be more durable can reduce environmental impacts from the materials used to build them on a per-mile traveled basis. Improving collection and distribution processes could reduce driving distances, and companies could use more fuel-efficient vehicles to collect the scooters. For their part, cities could allow scooters to be left out overnight and only picked up when their batteries are depleted.

For now, however, a scooter ride that doesn’t replace a car trip is unlikely to be a net win for the planet.”

It will be interesting to see if Lane Cove Council’s letter to the Minister for Transport changes his mind on an E-scooter trail in NSW.

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