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Keeping people safe on e-scooters

There's been a worrying increase in hospitalisations among users.

E-scooters (electric scooters) have provided great benefits in Australia since being first available in 2019, but there are also fears about the future and safety of these motor vehicles.

A recent study by Monash University found a 234 percent increase in hospitalisations due to scooter induced injuries over the past year. Hospitalisations have jumped from 128 in 2020/21 to 427 in 2022. While most accidents are due to people falling off their scooter, being hit by a car and colliding with bikes also contribute to these statistics.

Much of the rise in hospitalisations is due to lagging legislation, which is causing the frequent use of illegal, privately owned e-scooters in the majority of the country. However, there are also problems with public service e-scooters becoming a public safety issue.

Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Cap tells upstart that they will continue listening to feedback and make decisions in the best interest of people’s safety in the CBD.

“We want to ensure that’s the standard set for providers in Melbourne. If new providers looking to operate in our municipality can’t meet these compliance standards, we won’t welcome them,” she says.

Although company e-scooters are limited to 25km/h, problems involving the cluttering of busy CBD footpaths and the use of private scooters are making people frustrated and left feeling unsafe.

Executive Officer of advocacy group Victoria Walks, Ben Rossiter, says that the misuse of scooters is common.

“Technically, the e-scooters should be on the roadways, not the footpath, but we know there is a lot of non-compliance, which is a concern,” he tells upstart.

“Particularly for older walkers, people with disabilities, families with kids, when e-scooters are breaking the law [by riding on footpaths] it makes it harder for them to move about. It is not just crashes; it is fear of the risk of injury.”

However, despite the concerning patterns, e-scooters have enhanced local public transport networks and provide a transport option that many people in Australian cities rely on. It is allowing less able-bodied people to travel without the need for their own personal vehicle.

First introduced in 2016 in Singapore by Neuron Mobility, the Neuron scooter has been widely popular and were first supplied in Australia in 2019. According to an impact report by the company, as of May this year, 45 percent of Neuron e-scooter rides replaced car journeys across the globe. The company also claims that this has significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions, eliminating an estimated 1,555 metric tonnes to date across users in 28 cities.

In order to retain the benefits of this form of transport while keeping everyone safe, Mayor Capp says that there are many strategies being formed to improve the safety of e-scooters, with a current trial in place testing all new technologies. At the start of June, Neuron Mobility launched an 18-month trial that will see a gradual rollout of 400 e-scooters throughout a 13km² riding area.

“We’ve provided feedback to Lime and Neuron on a range of issues, such as establishing no-park zones in heavy pedestrian areas, best-practice safety messaging and promoting the benefits of the e-scooter trial to the city economy,” she says.

Across the new trial, modern technology like the incorporation of safer helmets, designated parking spaces and improved geofencing technology is being tested.

Lauren Bell, an Account Executive at Seven Communications, who is responsible for selling and marketing Neurons across Sydney, tells upstart that the aim of the development is to adjust quickly to safety issues.

“We continue to design and manufacture our own safety-first e-scooters, as well as develop and roll out a range of innovative technology. This allows us to innovate quicker and more efficiently,” she says.

“Other world-firsts include battery swapping e-scooters, voice guidance and the implementation of the first full suite of geofencing technology to control where e-scooters are ridden and parked and their speed in different areas.”

With the potential implementation of revolutionary technology, it looks like public e-scooters will be here to stay long into the future and help to positively impact transport systems in cities.


Photo: Lime e-scooters by Mack Male available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not been modified.

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