Privately-owned e-scooters to be street-legal under Opposition plan

Riding privately-owned e-scooters on public roads and footpaths without a driver’s licence or registration would become legal under proposed legislation to be introduced by the Opposition when state parliament resumes next month.

Jan 27, 2023, updated Jan 27, 2023
Only e-scooters hired from private operators can be ridden on footpaths in areas with approved trials. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

Only e-scooters hired from private operators can be ridden on footpaths in areas with approved trials. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

Opposition Leader David Speirs said rules which fine people up to $2000 if they are caught riding a privately-owned e-scooter in public spaces are “creating confusion” and need to be changed.

Under current laws, it is illegal to ride “motorised wheeled recreational devices” such as e-scooters, electric skateboards, segways, hoverboards and self-balancing unicycles on roads, footpaths, bike tracks or in car parks.

The government states the devices do not meet the safety standards under the Australian Design Rules and therefore can only be used on private property.

Only e-scooters hired from private operators can be ridden on footpaths in areas with approved trials, including in the city and North Adelaide, along the Coastal Park Trail and within the Unley and Norwood, Payneham and St Peters council areas.

Speirs said most people don’t realise that by riding a privately-owned e-scooter on the streets they are breaking the law.

“Who can blame them, when hundreds of hire scooters are constantly seen zipping around the city?,” he said.

The Opposition’s Statutes Amendment (Personal Mobility Devices) Bill 2022, proposed to be introduced when parliament resumes next month, would amend the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Acts to allow all e-scooters – and some other mobility devices – to be used on roads or “road-related areas”.

It would exempt e-scooter riders from being required to hold a driver’s licence or learner’s permit. Riders also wouldn’t need to have registration or insurance.

Those riding an e-scooter would be barred from traveling at over 25km/hr on roads with dividing lines, median strips, or where the speed limit is greater than 50km/hr, and they would be required to keep as far to the left side of the road as possible.

The Opposition’s infrastructure and transport spokesperson Vincent Tarzia said the legislation would ensure police officers could “turn their attention to more serious offences” and “save time by not stopping e-scooter riders”.

“There are so many benefits to using e-scooters. They’re an affordable form of transportation, which can help ease cost-of-living pressures. They’re better for the environment than cars and help reduce traffic congestion,” he said.

In November, Premier Peter Malinauskas told ABC Radio Adelaide that he backed a call by Police Commissioner Grant Stevens for legislative requirements for e-scooters to be changed or clarified.

He said the government could introduce new laws this year with provisions to keep pedestrians safe.

Road Safety Minister Joe Szakacs told InDaily that Labor had made an election commitment to consult with privately-owned electric mobility device users and the broader community.

He said the government was waiting for parliament’s Select Committee on Public and Active Transport to hand down the findings of an inquiry currently underway before starting its review of personal mobility device legislation.

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“Consultation will be broad and the Government is committed to engaging with not only stakeholders, but with users and the community at large,” he said.

“Broader consultation with stakeholders and the wider community will be complete this year.

“Unlike the Liberals, we’re committed to genuine engagement with the community and all users.”

Tarzia acknowledged that the government was currently assessing e-scooter legislation, but he said the outcomes of that review were “many months or even years away”.

“In the meantime, we believe we have a sensible, practical solution that will end the confusion, get more cars off the road and bring us into line with other jurisdictions,” he said.

Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory also ban the use of privately-owned e-scooters in public areas.

Australia Institute director Noah Schultz-Byard earlier this month said that e-scooters had now been trialled in many Australian cities including western Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and Hobart, where they had been used to replace car trips and connect public transport journeys.

He said differences in what types of electric scooters were allowed in public, where they were allowed to ride, and at what speeds had created a “really confusing situation for consumers”.

“The popularity of these trials shows there is a space in our community where this new transport technology can fill a void. Unfortunately, the regulation hasn’t kept up with the technology,” he said.

CityMag reported last year that 600 people had signed a petition calling on the government to change the regulation of small electric vehicles such as e-scooters.

One of the petition’s organisers told the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport committee last year that although infringement notices start at $870 for those who have been caught riding their personal devices in public, and the potential to lose of motor vehicle licence for up to three months, people are deliberately getting caught.

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