Privately-owned scooter riders rally after their “main method of micro transport” is taken away

Brendan Rees

Southbank residents who have been warned by police not to use their private electric scooters have expressed their frustration, accusing e-scooter trial users of “riding for fun, breaking the rules.”

Concerns relating to the e-scooter trial heightened at a community meeting held last month at the Boyd Community Hub, with privately-owned scooter riders claiming that they were being targeted by police despite riding responsibly while trial users flouted the law.      

Privately-owned e-scooters are banned on public roads, footpaths, and bike lanes as they are more than 200 watts or can travel at more than 10km/h – which police say is classified as a motor vehicle.

Jannine Pattison, a spokeswoman for the new residents’ group Southbank3006, which hosted the community meeting, said private scooter owners who had been issued warnings or infringement notices for illegal scooter use were a “big problem” as their “main method of micro transport” had now been taken away.  

She added there were also concerns the year-long e-scooter trial, which began on February 1, would also fail due to “inconsiderate” users breaking rules including not wearing helmets and riding on shared footpaths.

However, Victoria Police said it was actively enforcing the e-scooter trial regulations, and anyone caught in breach of the rules would be “subject to significant penalties.”

Currently, hired scooters can travel at 20 km/h on bicycle lanes, shared paths, and roads with a 50kmh maximum speed limit.

Louise, who asked not to use her surname, told Southbank News she was devastated after having recently been warned by police that she could no longer ride her private scooter.

“If I was caught again, I would be fined and [police] could even confiscate the scooter,” she said, which she described as “really unfair.”

“This is how I get everywhere. I was really devastated.”

While she supported the e-scooter trial, she believed 90 per cent of users were “not going to work, they’re just messing around, and they’re drunk … they’re never wearing helmets and they plough through traffic.”

Another resident Daniel Pattison, who was warned by police to not ride his electric scooter, said while he was “aware it was a grey zone area of the law” before he purchased his own, “there was no enforcement of laws about them then and I never saw or heard of police fining e-scooters users unless they were riding in unsafe ways.”

“When I heard about the trial, I was excited for it as I thought it was basically for tourists and maybe people, before buying one, could try it out first and that private scooters could still be used. Instead, it feels to me we were thrown under the bus,” he said.

While Mr Pattison said he understood the need for safety regulations “nothing was even discussed in the public realm before this was implemented to my knowledge” in terms of private e-scooter use.   

“As a result of this I know of many riders who have just stopped using their scooters and instead drive in their cars now when a lot of us thought we were doing the right thing by not using a car, helping the environment, and reducing car congestion, etc.”

 “Again, our community feels bitterly let down again by the local politicians.”

 Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna said e-scooter riders were going “too fast” along Southbank Promenade, with many choosing to use shared footpaths.

 

What frustrates people is when they do it and there’s a bicycle path – you could be in the bicycle path, and you choose not to.

 

However, Mr Penna said he was in favour of the e-scooter trial so long as “they follow the conditions of the trial.”

When asked about privately-owned e-scooter use, he acknowledged that the trial was rising in popularity and “so the perception of the trial is probably making people believe that it’s legal to have an e-scooter.”

 “I think at the moment it’s a novelty, it’s a ‘time will tell’ scenario,” he said.

“In terms of whether it’s a good thing for Southbank, that’s difficult. I’m not sure if Southbank residents are using them. I think the tourists are using them … and I think that’s who it’s marketed towards.”

Southbank Police Station commander Senior Sergeant Alex O’Toole said she was in talks with Neuron, the company behind the e-scooter trial, with hopes that a proposed 10km/h speed limit could be applied to Southbank Promenade as well as from Clarendon St to Crown Promenade.

“They’re really proactive, if they’ve got any issues, they will look to us and hopefully get some solutions,” she said.

Snr Sgt O’Toole added if members of the public saw e-scooter trial riders doing the wrong thing, they could take a photo and report it to Neuron.

“If you take a photo of them – you can send that to Neuron, their GPS is so good if there aren’t that many other scooters in the area, they can actually track down who was riding that scooter, whose account it is … and they can place a ban on their account.”

Sally Dempster, a local Southbank worker, said she had nearly been “bowled over” twice by e-scooters and had concerns that someone could be seriously injured.

“I don’t know whether there’s enough room for people to go zooming in between. It only takes one person not to see them coming behind and that’s it,” she said.

Meanwhile, Louise, who admitted she would continue using her own scooter to commute to work despite risking a fine, said privately-owned scooters should be legalised.

“There’s no infrastructure for all these thousands of people to move in the area, the last thing you want on City Rd is never moving because it’s a big transport hub for people to get across the city,” she said.

“There’s no petrol, there’s no congestion, and they’ve got these purpose-built bike lanes. You don’t have that noise pollution so what are they wanting?”

Victoria Walks executive officer Dr Ben Rossiter said his organisation had concerns of the e-scooter trial.

“As people are returning to the city, our footpaths are already starting to get overcrowded again, people need them clear of obstructions and illegal riding.” •

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