End of the road threat for city e-scooters as council puts foot down

Rental e-scooters will be banned from the CBD by next May unless the state government steps in to regulate their use amid Adelaide City Council concerns about pedestrian safety and lack of insurance, with the Lord Mayor “vehemently opposed” to their use on footpaths.

May 24, 2023, updated Feb 19, 2024
Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily; Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily; Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

The council on Tuesday night debated whether to authorise Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith to write to Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis to request a 10-month extension of the city’s e-scooter “trial”, which has been running since February 2019.

It comes after Lomax-Smith told a council committee meeting last week she was “vehemently opposed” to e-scooters being used on city footpaths.

“I think this is a real health hazard and insurance problem, so I’m sorry that I’m on the edges of this debate and I’m a dinosaur in disliking this micro-mobility,” she said on May 16.

“But I don’t think there is any place for wheeled, powered vehicles on the footpath mixed with pedestrians.”

Two e-scooter companies – the purple Beam fleet and the orange Neurons – operate in the city, each paying a weekly $1545 permit fee to the council.

Only these e-scooters can be legally ridden on footpaths in areas with approved trials, whereas privately-owned e-scooters are banned – but still commonly used – on public roads and footpaths.

The state government is currently undertaking a review of “personal mobility device use in South Australia” to inform new laws and regulations for both privately-owned and fleet-operated e-scooters.

In the interim, it continues to grant temporary extensions to councils running e-scooter trials.

The city e-scooter trial was due to expire on June 30 after the council in December asked the state government to grant only a six-month extension, rather than a 12-month extension recommended by council administration.

Councillors last night passed the motion authorising the Lord Mayor to request a further extension until April 30, 2024.

But they also passed an amendment specifying this would be the “final” extension.

Councillor Simon Hou, who moved the amendment, said this would set a “clear deadline” for the state government to act on new laws.

“Sure, e-scooters offer a certain convenience for transportation, but let’s not turn a blind eye on the risk they bring into our community,” he said.

“Take a stroll all around the city and you will notice over half of all the e-scooter riders are not using them as intended.

“No helmets, two or even three riders on the same e-scooter, and kids who are too young to legally operate them – these are everyday signs that we see.”

Hou also raised concerns about “gaps” in e-scooter regulation, including the lack of compulsory third party insurance arrangements which can make it difficult for people hit by an e-scooter to obtain compensation.

“There are still many key questions that have not been answered: should e-scooters be allowed on footpaths, what’s their limited speed, and whether or not insurance should be mandatory,” he said.

Central ward councillor Simon Hou. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

“So here is my plea to all of you, let’s extend the e-scooter license for just one last 10 months.

“If in this period the state government can’t come up with legislation to properly manage and regulate the e-scooters, then it is the time we put our foot down and refuse further extensions.

“This will effectively end the e-scooter trial. With this step, we are giving our community the protection it deserves while setting a clear deadline for the state government to act.”

It’s unclear whether the state government will legislate changes to personal mobility devices regulation before April 30, 2024.

In an agenda note last week, the council administration said: “The timeline for the State Government’s review and any subsequent changes to Acts and/or Regulations cannot be confirmed but previous advice from DIT (Department for Infrastructure and Transport) is that legislative changes may take up to 12 months.”

Consultation on the government review concluded on May 21. InDaily asked the state government when the review is scheduled to be completed and whether it intends to legislate changes before April 30 next year.

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In response, a government spokesperson said: “The Department for Infrastructure and Transport has received 1800 public survey responses and 75 email and telephone submissions to the public consultation, which closed on Sunday 21 May 2023.

“These responses will now be thoroughly assessed in the coming months. In addition, the Department is still waiting on further submissions from key local government stakeholders.

“This includes the Adelaide City Council.”

Councillors want to enforce orderly parking of e-scooters in the city. Photo: Angela Skujins/CityMag

Tuesday night’s council motion authorised the Lord Mayor to make a submission to the review.

Councillors passed an amendment asking her to highlight issues to the government such as the need for better e-scooter parking controls, policing and a “scheme that can support victims in the event of being hit by Personal Mobility Devices”.

Lomax-Smith told council’s Infrastructure and Public Works Committee last week that she was “vehemently opposed” to e-scooters being used on city footpaths.

“Where I live, I’m surrounded by AirBnb accommodation, so not only do I have itinerant neighbours, I have itinerant neighbours who deposit these things across the footpath and when I walk home I trip over them,” she said on May 16.

She said the use of e-scooters on Gouger Street was particularly dangerous because “there are young people whizzing around up and down the street without helmets at speed amongst the tables”.

She said on Tuesday that she had already written a “personal submission” to the state government’s review but was happy to “embellish it and improve it with (council’s) advice”.

From January 1 to March 31 this year, there have been 11 reported e-scooter injuries in the City of Adelaide – all of which have been “rider only”, according to council administration data.

Only one of the injuries required “minor” medical treatment.

Nearly 872,000 e-scooter trips, more than 2000 a day, were recorded in the City of Adelaide last year.

Deputy Lord Mayor Phillip Martin was the only councillor to vote against extending the e-scooter trial.

He said the council’s most recent six-month extension request, which he supported, was supposed to be the last.

“It is… the longest trial in history,” he said.

“We know that there is not controlled use of the devices on footpaths either for parking or for transport.

“We know also that there’s a need for increased policing, we know also that there’s no support for victims.

“It is one more extension, and I hasten to add it’s not going to be the last.”

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