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E-scooter giant Lime says it’s “making progress” in preventing footpath riding, but residents not so convinced

E-scooter giant Lime says it’s “making progress” in preventing footpath riding, but residents not so convinced
Brendan Rees

Global electric scooter company Lime says it is continuing to take steps to prevent its vehicles from being ridden illegally on footpaths within Melbourne, as Southbank residents express concern about the ongoing behaviour.

Lime’s general manager for Australia, Hugo Burt-Morris, said preventing footpath riding “is a key objective in Melbourne”, and “an important goal we share with the city”.

“We’re making progress and always pushing for further change and improvement,” he said.

Orange and green electric scooters in the city — from companies Neuron Mobility and Lime, respectively — form part of a 12-month, three-local government trial that started 12 months ago, but their place in the transport network has been met with criticism, particularly about how they intersect with pedestrians.

E-scooter riders must not use footpaths, with police focusing their attention on this issue during summer, along with ensuring helmets were being worn, and only one person aged 18 and over riding on the e-scooter.

Privately-owned e-scooters can only be legally ridden on private property, but according to the commander of Southbank Police Station Senior Sergeant Alex O’Toole, their presence had “increased dramatically” along with other electrically powered skateboards.

When told of Lime’s objective to prevent footpath riding, Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna said that “I don’t think anything’s changed”.

“We’re not seeing that [improvements] on the ground, they’re saying they’re doing stuff but we’re not seeing that; so really, it’s their word that we’re hoping to believe, but what are they doing? How can they police it?” he said.

Mr Penna said he had raised his concerns with Lime staff during a meeting in early March where he was told they are “doing everything we can” to make it safer for riders and pedestrians.

“I said, ‘you’ve got the big data, you know exactly where these people are riding,’ but more importantly they’re not meant to be used on roads [with designated speed zones] greater than 50km/h.”

Mr Penna said in the most part, people needed to ride on 60km/h zoned roads to get to 50km/h zoned roads, of which there was “only a handful” in Southbank.

E-scooters are limited to low-speed roads (up to and including 50 km/h).

Mr Penna said “more troubling” was that he had seen Lime technicians charging batteries of e-scooters in Southbank while parked on roads that were in a 60km/h zone, “which should be picked up and relocated” to where they can be legally ridden.

He said he told Lime that, “You’re endorsing them to be riding on those roads,” to which they acknowledged they “need to do more”.

 

I’ve been raising this several times since the trial started and nothing’s changed.

 

Mr Penna also expressed concern about the loophole in Lime and Neuron’s respective insurance policies, in which third parties, such as pedestrians, are not covered if they are struck by a rider using a footpath or not wearing a helmet.

Lime has implemented measures to discourage illegal riding, including geo-fencing, which prevents riders from unlocking the scooters’ designated areas, and top speed restrictions of 10km/h.

Southbank3006 residents’ group vice-president Jannine Pattison said she was concerned about riders using footpaths “with little regard for pedestrian safety”.

“We have heard multiple stories of near misses from members when stepping out of their apartment buildings,” she said.

“As a community we want people to embrace micro-transport and to encourage responsible riding.”

“This can only be done via education, enforcement and one implementation of technology (to prevent riding or high-speed riding in high pedestrian zones). Hopefully the expansive bike lane projects will make it easier for scooter riders to follow the rules and leave the footpaths to pedestrian traffic.”

Ms Pattison applauded those who rode responsibly, but noted “sadly, like any motorised vehicle, the damage that can be inflicted by those not following the rules can prove to be quite devastating”.

“We tend to highlight the negative impacts rather than address the core issue of ‘how can we ensure riders ride safely to reduce potential incidents?’”

A Victoria Walks spokesperson urged riders to do the right thing by sticking to 30-50km/h roads, or to shared paths “where they’re required to travel safely and always give space to people on foot”.

In February, Lime posted a record $466 million in gross bookings in 2022, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation of $15 million.

“We strive to provide riders and cities with the best shared electric vehicle experience out there and get closer to fulfilling our mission,” Lime’s CEO Wayne Ting said.

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