City e-scooter trial set to continue for another year

Adelaide City Council will seek to extend an e-scooter trial until April next year, despite ongoing safety concerns and councillors voicing frustration at the lack of state government legislation and enforcement governing their use.

Feb 29, 2024, updated Feb 29, 2024
Beam and Neuron e-scooters on King William St. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

Beam and Neuron e-scooters on King William St. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

On Tuesday night, the council agreed that Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith would write to the Minister for Transport requesting an extension of the City of Adelaide e-scooter trial, due to expire on April 30, until April 2025. 

The trial extension decision came despite councillors previously saying the current trial would be the last due to the lack of state government legislation on the mode of transport being used on roads and footpaths. 

Prior to the decision, Upper House MLC Frank Pangallo spoke to the council urging members to vote against another extension. 

“This will have to be one of the longest trials of anything anywhere in the world,” Pangello said. 

“While regulations were put in place by the government, many are not being enforced. I see breaches daily, even coming in here tonight.

“I urge you not to continue to follow this path until you see something tangible in legislation.”

Pangello raised safety concerns about e-scooters use and their lithium-ion batteries he said were difficult to extinguish in case of fire. 

Firefighters have raised concerns in recent years about e-scooter and e-bike batteries which aren’t required to go through the same checks and regulations as road-registered vehicles. 

Speaking to Cosmos Magazine’s podcast Debunks in 2023 firefighter Emma Sutcliffe from EV Fire Safe said e-scooters, e-bikes and e-skateboards can “cause carnage”.  

“The technology has moved ahead so quickly, that there’s no fire agency in the world that’s developed what we call SOPs or standard operating procedures for managing electric vehicle fires yet,” Sutcliffe said. 

EV Fire Safe reported that in the first six months of 2023, there had been over 500 total fires caused by light electric vehicles (e-bikes, e-scooters, e-skateboards), with 138 causing injury and 36 fatalities.  (This picture: EV Fire Safe)

Pangello also claimed that an e-scooter accident could lead to the council being held liable by an insurance company if a damaged road or pavement was involved. 

“Why would you extend this trial when these alarming loopholes exist that can result in massive medical and legal bills, as well as exposing councillors to litigation?” he said. 

Councillor David Elliott supported the trial extension and said the council regularly addressed concerns with e-scooter operators. 

“[The e-scooter operators] have been incredibly compliant and incredibly acquiescent, you could not get a better party of people to work with in terms of addressing safety concerns,” he said.

“While it may make it the longest trial in the world, that’s not the council’s fault, that’s certainly not anyone using a scooter’s fault – that is the responsibility of the state government and we have cooperated as best we can to make sure that the trial is as successful as possible.”

Elliott said there was “no sense” in declining the extension when an e-scooter policy would have to be reintroduced when legislation was finally delivered. 

“The legislation is forthcoming, in fact it’s imminent so it is really up to us to make sure we’re following through and delivering on our part of the deal,” he said. 

A state government spokesperson told InDaily earlier this month that legislation was expected to be introduced in mid-2024, but that it may take until 2025 as  “it’s a matter for the parliament how quickly it is passed”. 

Councillor Carmel Noon also backed the extension, despite voicing frustration with the wait for the state government to act, citing the Premier’s recent criticism of the council on a park lands sports fencing decision.

“The state government calls this council crazy, but this is an example of crazy to extend [the e-scooter trial] to the point we have,” Noon said. 

“To have to just wait for the state government again and again to extend it, well that is the definition of crazy.”

Councillor Simon Hou also spoke against extending the trial, saying “enough is enough”. 

But the majority of councillors backed extending the trial, while councillors Hou, Philip Martin and Henry Davis voted against it. 

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